Five centuries ago demons haunted our world, with incubi and succubi tormenting victims as they lay asleep. Two centuries ago spirits haunted our world, with ghosts and ghouls harassing sufferers during all hours of the night. This past century aliens haunted our world, with grays and greens abducting captives and whisking them away for probing and prodding. Nowadays people are reporting out-of-body experiences, floating above their beds.What is going on here? Are these elusive creatures and mysterious phenomena in our world or in our minds? New evidence adds weight to the notion that they are, in fact, products of the brain. Neuroscientist Michael Persinger, in his laboratory at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, for example, can induce all these perceptions in subjects by subjecting their temporal lobes to patterns of magnetic fields. (I tried it myself and had a mild out-of-body experience.)
Similarly, the September 19, 2002, issue of Nature reported that neuroscientist Olaf Blanke of Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland and his colleagues were able to bring about out-of-body experiences through electrical stimulation of the right angular gyrus in the temporal lobe of a 43-year-old woman suffering from severe epileptic seizures. With initial mild stimulation, she felt she was "sinking into the bed" or "falling from a height." With more intense stimulation, she said she could "see myself lying in bed, from above, but I only see my legs and lower trunk." Another trial induced "an instantaneous feeling of 'lightness' and 'floating' about two meters above the bed, close to the ceiling."
This article was originally published with the title Demon-Haunted Brain.