Deliberate and spontaneous sensations of disembodiment:capacity or flaw?


Introduction: Hallucinations that involve shifts in the subjectively experienced location of the self, have been termed “out-of-body experiences” (OBEs). Early psychiatric accounts cast OBEs as a specific instance of depersonalisation and derealisation disorder (DPD-DR). However, during feelings of alienation and lack of body realism in DPD-DR the self is experienced within the physical body. Deliberate forms of “disembodiment” enable humans to imagine another’s visuo-spatial perspective taking (VPT), thus, if a strong relationship between deliberate and spontaneous forms of disembodiment could be revealed, then uncontrolled OBEs could be “the other side of the coin” of a uniquely human capacity. Methods: We present a narrative review of behavioural and neuroimaging work emphasising methodological and theoretical aspects of OBE and VPT research and a potential relationship. Results: Results regarding a direct behavioural relationship between VPT and OBE are mixed and we discuss reasons by pointing out the importance of using realistic tasks and recruiting genuine OBEers instead of general DPD-DR patients. Furthermore, we review neuroimaging evidence showing overlapping neural substrates between VPT and OBE, providing a strong argument for a relationship between the two processes. Conclusions: We conclude that OBE should be regarded as a necessary implication of VPT ability in humans, or even as a necessary and potentially sufficient condition for the evolution of VPT.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
College of Health & Life Sciences > Clinical and Systems Neuroscience
College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Optometry > Centre for Vision and Hearing Research
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Cognitive Neuropsychiatry on 10/8/16, available online:
Uncontrolled Keywords: (dis-)embodiment,HOBT task,Out-of-body experiences,perspective taking,temporo-parietal junction,Medicine(all),Cognitive Neuroscience,Psychiatry and Mental health
Publication ISSN: 1464-0619
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2024 08:18
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2016 07:11
Full Text Link: http://www.tand ... 05.2016.1203769
Related URLs: http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Review article
Published Date: 2016-09-02
Published Online Date: 2016-08-10
Accepted Date: 2016-06-13
Submitted Date: 2016-02-26
Authors: Kessler, Klaus (ORCID Profile 0000-0001-7307-9539)
Braithwaite, Jason J.



Version: Accepted Version

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