The brain creating a representation of the body and its position

Stockholm: Henrik Ehrsson, 36, leads the research team — in the department of neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden — that has successfully “tricked” the brain to have an out-of-body experience.

An interview with Henrik Ehrsson

How does the brain recognise its own body as its self ?

We are always in exactly the same place as our body when we talk of the self at the basic level of the sense of being a body. But the self also has a number of higher levels to do with our memories, our social characteristics and our skills. Taken together, all of this makes up what we call our self in everyday talk. Scientifically bodily self-awareness requires multisensory integration. Signals from our eyes, muscles, skin and sense of balance come together in a way the brain can create a representation of the body and its position in our surroundings. This model is based on interpretations of sensory impressions and sometimes the brain misinterprets them.

How do you body-swap?

We managed to give volunteers a strong sense of being outside their own body by “eye transfer” since the visual aspect is important in how the brain knows where the self is. Strategically positioned video cameras enabled the volunteer to ‘see’ his body from behind, and conveyed the illusion of being outside the body. The experiment went on to give the volunteer the experience of ‘feeling’ the sensation of touch in another body placed just behind the volunteer’s physical body. No drugs or medicines were used to enhance or enable body swapping.

Why create the perceptual illusion of body-swapping?

The illusion of body-swapping informs us about the perceptual processes that underlie the sense of owning a body. It’s not about helping us perceive our own body but to perceive the body of another.It would help deepen our understanding of pain disorders and create neuroprosthetics. Applications of the technique — of tricking your brain to believe there is something there that is part of you even if it is not — would be useful in overcoming the phenomenon of phantom limb pain. As a graduate student, I was inspired by professor Ramachandran’s work on phantom limbs. In creating the illusion of body-swapping, we can come up with applications to overcome the pain experienced by amputee patients; to acclimatise the brain and coax it to recognise the prosthetic limb as part of the body.

Body-swapping would also greatly enhance learning experiences, including practical training and guidance as in telesurgery. It can help cure patients of various phobias like fear of heights, and fear of spiders. Experience of virtual reality would get enhanced with the participant assuming the avatar of the character.

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“Signals from our eyes, muscles, skin and sense of balance come together in a way the brain can create a representation of the body and its position in our surroundings”

The reality of the object taken to be oneself is a created representation by the very act of cognizing the arriving impacting inputs from the surrounding environ.

In the absence of the impacting environ and the cognizing ability…

..there is no object…… …..aka in the state of deep sleep.

Neuro science is arriving at Indra’s Net of Jewels, …….where each object, a jewel, exists as a mere reflection of the other.

Based on such a dependent existence, a whole cacophony known as Life, ideals, objectives, missions, achievements, failures, emotions, relationships is built.

And then agonized over or enthralled with.

It appears that OBE is more of the same stuff and all those bardo states ……….much pursued in spiritual circles….

…more hoopla.

Author: Sandeep

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