Wednesday, 3 July 2013

OBEs and the door ghost - a connection!

ShadowRegular readers will be aware that I have, on occasion, had mini-OBEs. This has involved me seeing something as if from a point much closer to me than it really is in space. In other words, as if I was floating outside my physical body. Well, recently, I seem to be able to do this pretty much to order.

Like the door ghost phenomenon (see here), it only happens (so far) in a very specific situation. It is when I am looking at a particular wooden floor. If I stare at it for a while, it suddenly appears to be much further away, even though I haven't physically moved. I'm not sure if there is any significance to the fact that it looks further away instead of closer - I strongly suspect the same brain mechanism is responsible in both cases.

So how do I 'do' it? I simply concentrate on staring at the wood pattern! I stop paying attention to anything else around me. Indeed, I get an odd feeling of detachment during the experience, increasing the feeling of being 'out of my body'. It is the same way I feel while watching the door ghost. Another interesting point is that when the experience starts, I actually see the wood 'moving' away. It isn't like a normal photo zoom, however, where the view widens. Instead it's like a dolly zoom (see here). When the experience ends it stops suddenly, as if 'broken' somehow, also like the door ghost. It's difficult not to see a connection between the door ghost phenomenon and the mini-OBE. Another connection, for instance, is that the door ghost appears further away than the hand that actually produces it. In addition, I only get the mini-OBE when I'm in a very specific position, just like for the door ghost.

So does my proneness to noticing misperceptions also make me have mini-OBEs? It's an interesting point because there is a reasonably well-understood explanation for most OBEs and it's different to the one for misperception. Against our instinctive view, our brains actually have to work hard just to maintain the positional view we have of the world, as if from a point just behind our eyes. They do this by integrating sensory input from our eyes, vestibular system and sense of touch. If these inputs provide contradictory information, or if the bit of our brain integrating them (the TPJ - temporoparietal junction) goes wrong, our point of view can change, an experience most people would call an OBE. Our brains are able to manufacture a reasonably accurate 'view' from a different position in space, apparently outside our bodies. Given that our 'normal' view is manufactured, from eye input, visual memory and expectation, this isn't such a surprise.

In my case, I believe I have these mini-OBEs when I look at an object with repeating patterns. They don't have to be identical patterns, like a wallpaper or carpet, just similar. In my case it has happened with brickwork and the patterns in wood. I think these patterns make it difficult for my visual system to accurately judge the distance of the object. The mini-OBE works more easily when I close one eye, so further reducing my ability to judge distance.

So is that the connection between my mini-OBEs and misperception this - compromised visual sensory input? That is certainly the usual cause of misperception. With mini-OBEs the 'compromised sensory input' is specifically about judging the distance of objects. So is that another 'trigger' that may cause misperception? Perhaps I'd see more ghosts if I went around with one eye closed!

In fact, the door ghost may well be the first example I have found where an inability to correctly judge distance may actually be the trigger of a misperception! No wonder, then, that my abilities to see the door ghost and to have mini-OBEs have grown in parallel!

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