Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are subjective experiences of seeing one's own body and the environment from a location outside the physical body. They can arise spontaneously or in specific conditions, such as during the intake of dissociative drug. Given its unpredictable occurrence, one way to empirically study it is to induce subjective experiences resembling an OBE using technology such as virtual reality. We employed a complex multisensory method of virtual embodiment in a virtual reality scenario with seven healthy participants to induce virtual OBE-like experiences. Participants performed two conditions in a randomly determined order. For both conditions, the participant's viewpoint was lifted out of the virtual body toward the ceiling of the virtual room, and real body movements were (visuo-tactile ON condition) or were not (visuo-tactile OFF condition) translated into movements on the virtual body below-the latter aiming to maintain a feeling of connection with the virtual body. A continuous 128-electrode EEG was recorded. Participants reported subjective experiences of floating in the air and of feeling high up in the virtual room at a strong intensity, but a weak to moderate feeling of being "out of their body" in both conditions. The EEG analysis revealed that this subjective experience was associated with a power shift that manifested in an increase of delta and a decrease of alpha relative power. A reduction of theta complexity and an increase of beta-2 connectivity were also found. This supports the growing body of evidence revealing a prominent role of delta activity during particular conscious states.
© 2023 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.