Electrodes implanted into the brain of a man with a stubborn case of ringing in the ear sparked an out-of-body sensation, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
A team of doctors led by Dr. Dirk De Ridder of Antwerp University found that stimulating the electrodes made the 63-year-old patient feel like he was outside his body twice — for 15 and 21 seconds — allowing doctors to track which parts of the brain became active during the experience, Reuters reports.
Whether out-of-body or near-death experiences are glimpses into the afterlife has been long-debated. De Ridder and his team report in NEJM that they were trying to cure the man of tinnitus in one ear when they stumbled onto the phenomenon.
The treatment did not work. Instead, the electrodes made the man feel like he was about 20 inches behind his body and off to the left. Only stimulation involving a portion of the superior temporal gyrus, located on the right side of the brain, produced the sensation.
They wrote: "Whether these regions are activated in patients who report disembodiment as part of a near-death experience — and if so, how — is a provocative but unresolved issue."