I found a recent scientific study that was using virtual reality to recreate "out-of-body" experiences. The reason I think this is significant for the autistic population is that it is the first time scientists have been able to use a method to study the body's senses of vision, touch and proprioception (sense of where your body is in space). When someone has a sensory integration disorder, their senses do not integrate normally, resulting in distorted perceptions of the world. This kind of study could lead to advances in understanding why our autistic kids have distortion of their senses and how it effects them. We could get a glimpse into their world!


Experiment creates out-of-body experience

August 23, 2007

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The findings provide evidence that such experiences may have a real scientific basis and are not simply a figment of imagination, according to the report in the August 24th issue of Science.

In the study, Dr. H. Henrik Ehrsson, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, had healthy volunteers wear goggles connected to two video cameras placed 2 meters behind them. The right eye display of the goggles was connected to the right camera and the left eye display to the left camera. "Thus, the person would see his or her back with the perspective of a person sitting behind him or her with stereoscopic vision," the researcher explains.

While the subjects were viewing their own backs through the goggles, the experimenter, who stood beside them, touched either their real chest, which was not viewable on the cameras, or their illusionary chest with a plastic rod. The latter effect was achieved by having the experimenter move the rod to a position just below the cameras, while still being in view.

After the experiment, the subjects were asked 10 questions designed to determine if an out-of-body experience had occurred. The results confirmed that the subjects did indeed have an out-of-body experience. As Dr. Ehrsson puts it, he created "a perceptual illusion in which individuals experience that their center of awareness, or "self," is located outside their physical bodies and that they look at their bodies from the perspective of another person."

To objectively verify this finding, another experiment was performed in which the experimenter hit the illusionary body with a hammer and gauged the emotional response by measuring sweating with skin electrodes. The results showed that the subjects responded emotionally as if they were viewing their physical bodies from the outside.

These illusions show "that the sense of being localized within the physical body can be fully determined by perceptual processes, that is, by the visual perspective in conjunction with multisensory stimulation on the body," Dr. Ehrsson states.

The results represent "a fundamental advance because the natural 'in-body experience' forms the foundation of self-consciousness," he concludes.

Science 2007;317:1048.

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Sep. 8, 2007 at 1:51 PM

Here's a coincidence...  My husband, Allen and our son, Kevin were just telling me about this.  They were reading about it online.  Kevin really wants to try this!  There is a company near here that makes these systems and they give tours by appointment.  I'll be sure to take pictures if we get a chance to go look at it.

Karen (too)

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Sep. 8, 2007 at 3:23 PM Jordan had something like this done Karen , it wasnt virtual reality though. They blindfolded him and tested how he reacted to different touches, sounds, smells etc. It was interesting to watch .

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Sep. 17, 2007 at 7:20 PM

You always have such great posts Karen! Thanks as always for sharing em!


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Oct. 3, 2007 at 7:43 PM This sounds like something that happened near here.  I read a little blurb in the paper about something like a traveling exhibit at a mall, where you could "feel what it's like to have autism".  I already had plans for that day, so I didn't read any more about it, but now I wish I would've cut it out and saved it.  It just sounded sort of hokey at the time.  Now I wish I had checked it out.

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