In an ongoing series of blogs designed to slice through the credulous nonsense of new age mythology and antiquated religious concepts, I present here some of the surprisingly large number of papers dealing with what neuroscience has to say about so-called “out-of-body experience” (OBE). Along with heautoscopy (the hallucination of seeing one’s own body at a distance, which can occur with schizophrenia) and the strong feeling of a presence, OBEs comprise what is known as autoscopia.
I first started this series with a look at duality and why it is utter nonsense. Commenter leo1500 didn’t like my use of Phineas Gage as an example of brain damage refuting mind-brain dualism. Too bad. Phineas Gage is representative of thousands of people with frontal lobe damage induced permanent (it’s not as if temporary helps the dualist maintain the delusion…) personality change that have been studied.
Nor is this the only type of brain damage example I could have used. Hippocampal damage can permanently end a person’s ability to form new memories. Brain damage can also cause prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces. Such people do not have any vision problems at all – they are as able to navigate in a complex environment as anyone. How does dualism explain these observations? In short, it doesn’t. But the computational theory of mind does -the circutry involved in processing new memories and facial information is disrupted.