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An inside look at out of body experiences

Published: 14 April 2023 at 11:00

Image of a brain

ARU talks series features masterclass with neuroscientist Dr Jane Aspell

Experts from the School of Psychology and Sport Science at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) are hosting a new series of online masterclasses this month. 
The free talks, which are streamed live and are open to the public, begin on 19 April (7pm) with ARU neuroscientist Dr Jane Aspell lifting the lid on out of body experiences
Dr Aspell’s event will explore case studies of neurological patients who report profound changes to their sense of self, body and reality. More commonly associated with near-death experiences, they can also be triggered by a range of different medical conditions and traumatic incidents. 
Written accounts of out of body experiences go back over 2,000 years, but until recently there has been no scientific explanation for why this phenomenon occurs.  
Dr Aspell will present recent scientific studies, including her own research, investigating what happens in the brain during an out of body experience and in related conditions, such as when people see their own ‘body double’. 
Dr Aspell, Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at ARU and Head of the Self and Body Lab, said:

“Someone having an out of body experience believes their self to be separate from their own body – to be floating above it – and often describe seeing their body lying down beneath them. My talk will cover the latest scientific research which finally provides answers to a phenomenon that’s been puzzling people for thousands of years. 
“There is now strong evidence that out of body experiences, and related experiences, are caused by abnormal functioning in parts of the brain that process and combine signals from our bodies. Recent research on neurological patients has shed light on how the healthy brain generates the experience of one’s self, and what happens when that construction temporarily goes ‘wrong’.” 

The series also includes a talk on 20 April (7pm), with Dr Matthew Jewiss investigating whether the stress response is always a negative. It will look at the consequences of stress both in a sports environment and wider context, such as in education. The talk will unpick the sources of stress and outline the interventions and strategies which can help an individual manage their responses to stress. 
Other talks in April include Dr Steven Stagg examining What is Autism Spectrum Disorder and Why Does it Matter on 26 April (12pm), which will explain some of the critical features of autism and address what it means to be on the autism spectrum, and Dr Jane Scott will present Feeling Fat: Causes, Consequences and Cure on 27 April (7pm). 
To register for any of these free talks, visit https://www.aru.ac.uk/community-engagement/master-class