Out of Body
A big question in the study of consciousness is where are events actually
occurring? There is an inescapable logic that places all events in the brain
with or without corresponding events elsewhere. A normal person has confidence
in external events only because his or her brain makes a distinction between
inside and outside events.
One way we distinguish between a normal and abnormal person is to study
“reality testing” which requires this distinction to be present, complete, and
convincing. Abnormal people become confused and fail to make this distinction.
Weber invented the law of projection to describe the way in which human brains
construct reality by identifying some brain activity with a source out there.
An example of erroneous projection occurs when a leg is amputated but the
legless person continues to report an itch in the absent big toe. The easiest
explanation is that signals continue to arrive at the neurons that used to be
connected to the toe and these neurons dutifully report the toe’s status to
consciousness. The itch is convincing even though the afflicted person knows
that there is no leg and no toe.
De Ridder et al reported electrical stimulation of the brain elicited
out-of-body experiences during which the “self” was perceived as being outside
of the body. A 63-year-old Danish man had electrodes placed over the right
temporoparietal area (auditory cortex) in an attempt to suppress
tinnitus. The researchers became interested in his out of body experiences and
used electrical stimulation and positron emission tomography (PET) to locate
brain activation during out of body events to the angular–supramarginal gyrus junction and the superior
temporal gyrus–sulcus on the right side. Activation was also seen in the right
precuneus and posterior thalamus with stimulation, extending into the superior
We have already defined images of events from inside the brainbodymind as
noumena or subjective experiences. Samples of the brain’s inner workings
sometimes appear in consciousness – ghost images, selftalk, dreams are all
normal noumena. Phantom limbs and out of body experiences are abnormal noumena
as are illusions, delusions and hallucinations.
Noumena may be projected out there as external events or may be recognized as
coming from within. Confusion about the origin of noumena is a major problem for
humans. We have declared that images of events that originate from the outside
tend to be detailed and explicit in consciousness as phenomena. Representations
of phenomena are said to be objective. The inescapable logic is that all
phenomena, no matter how convinced you are of their external origin, must become
noumenal and conscious before their existence is known.