How the Brain Creates Ghosts
Have you ever seen something or someone out of the corner of your eye, or felt a presence of someone observing you, but when you looked, nothing was there?
Many people call this strange feeling, or “presence,” ghosts, wraiths, shadow people, the paranormal, and so forth. And now, a group of researchers has examined where these sensations originate from within the brain by using a robot-controlled induction of an apparition. They concluded that feelings of a ghostly presence reside in the mind, which raises a great question: are these sensations purely imaginary, an error in brain function, or is our mind a gateway to other dimensions?
The study, published in the journal Current Biology and conducted by a group of scientists including Dr. Giulio Rognini from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), wanted to understand the often-reported phenomenon of sensing the presence of an invisible apparition, a ghost. The researches had identified that such sensations are often experienced by people in extreme conditions, such as mountaineers, or ones with a neurological condition. Dr. Rognini comments:
“The sensation is very vivid. They feel somebody but they cannot see it. It is always a felt presence.”
“What is astonishing is that they frequently report that the movements they are doing or the posture they are assuming at that specific moment is replicated by the presence. So if the patient is sitting, they feel the presence is sitting. If they are standing, the presence is standing, and so on.”
As part of the study, the scientists examined a group of 12 patients with neurological disorders who had reported that they had previously felt a ghostly presence, and, prior to the experiment, they performed a full brain scan of each patient. The scans revealed that all of these individuals had some damage in the brain, specifically in the area associated with movement, self-awareness and the body’s position in space. The report states:
“Our data show that the FoP [feeling of a presence] is an illusory own-body perception with well-defined characteristics that is associated with sensorimotor loss and caused by lesions in three distinct brain regions: temporoparietal, insular, and especially frontoparietal cortex.”
To further understand the brain’s role in experiencing paranormal sensations, the researchers recruited 48 healthy volunteers, who reported that they had never experienced paranormal incidents. The experiment then would alter the neural signals in the previously mentioned regions of the brain to understand if a paranormal experience can be created.
“Based on these data and recent experimental advances of multisensory own-body illusions, we designed a master-slave robotic system that generated specific sensorimotor conflicts and enabled us to induce the FoP [feeling of a presence] and related illusory own-body perceptions experimentally in normal participants.”
The robotic system consisted of one robot that was manipulated by the participants, who were blindfolded, while another robot traced the same movements along the participants’ backs. Dr. Rognini shares the results:
“When the movements at the front and back of the volunteer’s body took place at exactly the same time, they reported nothing strange.
But when there was a delay between the timing of the movements, one third of the participants reported feeling that there was a ghostly presence in the room, and some reported feeling [that] up to four apparitions were there.
Two of the participants found the sensation so strange, they asked for the experiments to stop.”
The research team believes that the interactions with the robot are temporarily confusing consciousness and the brain, so it is miscalculating the position of the body and thus the participants were identifying the sensations as someone else’s. They elaborate in the report:
These data show that the illusion of feeling another person nearby is caused by misperceiving the source and identity of sensorimotor (tactile, proprioceptive, and motor) signals of one’s own body. Our findings reveal the neural mechanisms of the [feeling of a presence], highlight the subtle balance of brain mechanisms that generate the experience of “self” and “other”…
Although these scientists were in particular looking for methods that can be used to understand neurological conditions such as schizophrenia, but, their research reveals the possibility that spooky paranormal sensation may only be a temporary miscalculation in the brain.
One could argue that individuals with perfectly healthy brains have also experienced the sensation of a ghostly presence. Perhaps the brain isn’t necessarily making mistakes in these instances, but, is instead using capacities that are still beyond our understanding and enable us to better perceive the position of our energetic body within the multi-dimensional Universe and beyond this holographic reality.
About the Author
Buck Rogers is the earth bound incarnation of that familiar part of our timeless cosmic selves, the rebel within. He is a surfer of ideals and meditates often on the promise of happiness in a world battered by the angry seas of human thoughtlessness. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com.
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