A new study has linked out-of-body experiences with inner ear disorders, according to Live Science.
The study, which looked at over 200 patients suffering various ear problems, found “a significantly higher occurrence of OBE in patients with dizziness…than in healthy participants.” Their dizziness was related to “peripheral vestibular disorders,” or dysfunctions of the inner ear.
“…our data indicate that OBE in patients with dizziness may arise from a combination of perceptual incoherence evoked by the vestibular dysfunction with psychological factors…and neurological factors.”
The vestibular system happens to be very important to our day-to-day function; it’s responsible for both our sense of balance and spatial orientation. As you can imagine, if and when that system goes awry, things can get pretty weird.
The brain can become confused.
This may cause vertigo, dizziness, vision problems, and even, in the case of OBEs, the feeling of being outside of your body.
In fact, it’s often cited that at least one in ten people have had an OBE during the course of their lives. They’re not limited to being caused by vestibular disorders, either – as the study mentions, OBEs have also been linked to epilepsy, migraine, anxiety and depersonalization.
Scientists have also attempted to induce them in a lab.
According to Wikipedia, neuroscientist Olaf Blanke found that pseudo-OBEs could be induced by “stimulating regions of the brain called the right temporal-parietal junction,” or TPJ. In 2007, Henrik Ehrsson used head-mounted video displays to induce sensations in patients of seeing themselves outside of their bodies, similar to OBEs.