Video cameras can create an out-of-body sensation. Researchers had volunteers sit in front of two cameras set to film their backs. A special headset displayed the images from the left camera to the left eye and the right camera to the right eye. An experimenter then simultaneously stroked a subject's chest and performed a similar motion just below the cameras' view, chest level. Subjects reported being overcome by the strange sensation that they were sitting where the cameras were rather than in their own bodies. Another experiment persuaded subjects that they were not standing where they really were. The findings suggest that the consciousness of a self in our body is based on the brain processing and correlating inputs from the various senses. These results, described in the August 24 Science, further indicate that self-consciousness begins with the awareness of a self in a particular body.
This article was originally published with the title "Explaining Out-of-Body Experiences" in Scientific American 297, 5, 34 (November 2007)