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InvisibleSclorch
Clyster

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OBEs = Brain Misfiring?
    #892605 - 09/19/02 06:54 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

For you, Swami... hehehe
____________________________________________
Brain Misfiring May Explain Out-Of-Body Experience
By JOSEPH B. VERRENGIA The Associated Press
Published: Sep 19, 2002

Their stories are the stuff of creepy movies and daytime television: Hospital patients resuscitated on the operating table speak of being drawn toward a brilliant light, or looking down on their own bodies as doctors work feverishly to save their lives.
What induces these brief, haunting images?
A new study suggests these ``out-of-body'' and ``near- death'' experiences may be influenced by a portion of the brain misfiring under stress.
The paper, which describes one patient's visions while she was being evaluated for epilepsy, does not wrestle with issues of the soul.
Nor, researchers said, do the brain-mapping results entirely explain these reports.

Real Or Perception?
The researchers point to a processing center in the brain known as the angular gyrus. The angular gyrus is thought to play an important role in the way the brain analyzes sensory information to give us a perception of our own bodies. When it misfires, they speculate, the result can be visions of floating outside of ourselves.
The findings were published in today's issue of the journal Nature.
``We do not fully understand the neurological mechanism that causes OBEs,'' conceded the study's lead researcher, neurologist Olaf Blanke at the University Hospitals of Geneva and Lausanne in Switzerland.
Skeptics of OBEs said the experiment goes a long way toward providing a scientific explanation for what some believe is a paranormal phenomenon, even if the study is based on only one patient.
``Since all of our brains are wired in a similar manner, there is no reason to think that stimulation of this brain region in other patients will not corroborate the finding,'' said psychologist Michael Shermer, director of the Skeptic Society, which seeks to debunk alien abductions, ESP and other claims.
``It's another blow against those who believe that the mind and spirit are somehow separate from the brain,'' Shermer said. ``In reality, all experience is derived from the brain.''
Other researchers were less dismissive of the possibility that OBEs might be real. They described the experiment as modest but interesting.
Neurologist Bruce Greyson of the University of Virginia said the experiment does not necessarily prove all OBEs are illusions. He said it is possible that some OBEs occur in different ways than the scientists suspect.

Patient Recalls Floating
The Swiss researchers mapped the brain activity of a 43-year-old woman who had been experiencing seizures for 11 years. They implanted electrodes to stimulate portions of her brain's right temporal lobe.
The temporal lobe, which includes the angular gyrus structure, is associated with perception of sound, touch, memory and speech.
Blanke suspects the right angular gyrus integrates signals from the visual system, as well as information on touch and balance.
When electrical stimulation was applied, the patient reported seeing herself ``lying in bed, from above, but I only see my legs and lower trunk.'' She also described herself as floating near the ceiling.
Millions of people have reported OBEs, but relatively few have been clinically analyzed.
Late last year, the British medical journal Lancet published a Dutch study in which 344 cardiac patients were resuscitated from clinical death. About 12 percent reported seeing light at the end of a tunnel, or speaking to dead relatives.
Other researchers have suggested that OBEs occur as brain cells die from lack of oxygen, or when the brain releases pain-reducing chemicals called endorphins.


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InvisibleClark
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Sclorch]
    #892616 - 09/19/02 07:01 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Doh! I was just about to post something on this myself. Here's a link to a BBC article:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2266740.stm


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InvisibleSclorch
Clyster

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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Clark]
    #892628 - 09/19/02 07:11 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Yeah well... "Bob" must've tipped me off first. :wink: 


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Anonymous

Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Sclorch]
    #892691 - 09/19/02 07:51 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Damn, I thought this was about Out of Beer Experiences... that's when my brain misfires.


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Sclorch]
    #892962 - 09/19/02 10:29 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Read an article a few days ago (not sure if I can find the link) about a nurse at a major hospital who collected NDE reports and was even given the hospital's sanction to do so.

She believed that it was something amazing going on because the unconscious patients could seemingly describe the procedures done on them.

The nurse also put some cards with symbols on top of some tall cabinets in the OR or ER as many patients claimed to be floating on the ceiling looking down. Not one patient was able to indentify the symbols.

She followed with,"This doesn't prove that the experiences are not real."

No it doesn't, but neither does it make a stronger case for an actual OBE.


As usual from the believer's standpoint, you get the infamous win-win double-standard.

Scenario 1: Patient is able to read symbols - proof of a mystery.

Scenario 2: Patient is unable to read symbols - they were focused on something more important, so this negative result means nothing.



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The proof is in the pudding.


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OfflineAlbino_Jesus
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Sclorch]
    #892991 - 09/19/02 10:38 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

:smile: :smile: :smile:

also: (and excuse the length, but as long as we're posting articles...)

  Searching for God in the Machine 


By David C. Noelle
Free Inquiry
http://secularhumanism.org/

Summer 1998



David Noelle is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, a joint project of Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh

"I have certain, positive knowledge from my own direct experience. I can't put it any plainer than that. I have seen God face to face." With these words, the fictional theologian Palmer Joss defends his religious convictions in Carl Sagan's 1985 novel, Contact, Joss argues for the existence of his Christian god on the basis of personal revelation. And Joss is not alone. Many religionists rest their faith on the apparently solid foundation of personal religious experiences. Some receive visions. Others hear a comforting voice. Almost all experience a "sense of presence" or a feeling of "unity with the universe." Such episodes typically bring catharsis, joy, and calm. Importantly, these experiences are not reported solely by people suffering from brain damage or mental illness.

We may, quite rightly, reject such subjective experiences as lacking the necessary qualities of scientific evidence, such as reproducibility and openness to consensual validation or critique. The religionist may retort, however, that his belief may not be scientifically justifiable, but he knows it to be true, nonetheless, because of his private religious revelation.


To completely counter this argument for the existence of god(s), some alternative explanation must be given for the religious experience. Researchers in the fields of psychology and neuroscience have begun to uncover the biological mechanisms that might give rise to feelings of revelation in healthy adults. I will briefly review and critically assess some of these scientific findings, focusing specifically on three questions:

1. Circuity--What brain circuit are involved in religious experiences?
2. Modularity--Does the brain contain a special module dedicated to religious experience?
3. Innateness--Is there a "religion instinct" that is genetically "hard-wired" into our brains?


The God-Module Discovery

In October 1997, a presentation boldly titled "The Neural Basis of Religious Experience" was given at the annual conference of the Society for Neuroscience by neuropsychologist Dr.
V. S. Ramachandran and his colleagues. The Los Angeles Times reported that, "researchers at the UC San Diego brain and perception laboratory determined that the parts of the brain's temporal lobe--which the scientists quickly dubbed the 'God module'--may affect how intensely a person responds to religious beliefs." The story suggested that there were now a least partial scientific answers to all three of our questions concerning religious experience. The circuits underlying religious experience are in the temporal lobe of the brain; they form a distinct religion module that is substantially innate. Experimental results were "leading the scientists to suggest a portion of the brain is naturally attuned to ideas about a supreme being."

One common way to hunt for a module in the brain is to examine patients with various kinds of brain damage, hoping to find a localized form of damage that correlates with changes in the behaviors of interest. In this way, one may discover relationships between certain circuits in the brain and certain behavioral functions.

This was the strategy taken by the scientists in San Diego. They decided to focus on temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) patients, who exhibit inter-ictal behavior syndrome (IBS) These patients are prone to excessive activity in their temporal lobes, causing seizures during, which they report powerful religious experiences. Importantly, clinicians have previously reported that such TLE patients are also often fanatically religious, even during the long periods between seizures.

The question asked by Ramachandran and his colleagues was, Why do such seizures often lead to enhanced religiosity? They entertained three possibilities:

1. Strange sensory experiences that arise during seizure are rationally interpreted as signs of paranormal powers.
2. The strong and widespread electrical activity that defines seizures strengthens connections between temporal lobe sensory areas and the amygdala (a brain area associated with emotion). This causes patients to see "deep cosmic significance" in everything.
3. There is a system in the temporal lobe devoted to mediating emotional responses of a religious nature. Seizures can selectively strengthen the connections in this system.

The researchers dismissed the first option on the grounds that other kinds of neurological and psychiatric disorders result in strange hallucinations without causing the development of specifically religious propensities. To distinguish between the remaining two options, the scientists tested TLE-IBS patients to see if they had stronger emotional responses to everything in the world or only to religious stimuli. The degree of emotional response was measured through a physiological correlate, skin conductance response (SCR). By measuring small rapid changes in perspiration, the researchers hoped to show that TLE-IBS patients were particularly aroused by religion.

Indeed, that was exactly what was found. The TLE-IBS patients showed preferential emotional arousal when presented with religious words as opposed to words with sexual or violent connotations. Unlike the patients, age-matched healthy control subjects responded most strongly to the sexual words.

While these results seem to indicate that there is something distinctly religious about some of the circuitry in the temporal lobes, there are some reasons to be cautious about this conclusion. First, this study involved only three patients, and the preference for religious words was not equally robust in all three. Also, TLE-IBS patients sometimes exhibit changes in sexuality, becoming obsessed with the topic or bored by it. This symptom could have impacted the patients' responses to the sexual stimuli. In short, these results should be seen as preliminary.

In the end, this experiment suggests only that TLE-IBS patients do, indeed, display religion-specific symptoms. This, in turn, suggests that the brain's temporal lobe is involved in religious experience. The degree to which religion is a distinct or genetically determined part of our neural architecture has yet to be determined.

Tuning Into the Divine

In the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, a large metal religious artifact called the "Ark of the Covenant" is described as "a radio for speaking to God." while, to date, no one has produced such a radio that can tune into the divine, one neuroscientist has fabricated something similar. Dr. Michael Persinger of Laurentian University has devised a machine that generates a particular kind of magnetic field around the head producing "rnicro-seizures" in the temporal lobes of the brain. Healthy people who have experienced this induced brain activity have reported such things as a feelings of floating, deformations of the body, strong emotions, a "sensed presence," and specifically religious dreamlike hallucinations.

Persinger's experimental work arose after years of research into the neurological basis of religious experiences. Over this time, he has constructed and refined a rather detailed account of the neural processes that may underlay feelings of supernatural contact.(1) In brief, religious experiences are seen as the result of "temporal lobe transients" (TLT)--short-lived rate increases and instability in the firing patterns of neurons in the temporal lobe. These transients are seen as miniature versions of the seizures experienced by temporal lobe epileptics, and they are thought to occasionally arise in healthy people.

Persinger has speculated as to why such TLT events would produce the particular configuration of experiences reported as religious revelations. He sees a critical part of our "sense of self" as being maintained by systems in the left hemisphere temporal cortex. Most of the time, there is "matched" activity in the analogous places in the right hemisphere. However, when activity on the right gets out of sync with activity on the left, as during a TLT event, the left hemisphere interprets the mismatched activity as "another self" or a "sensed presence" the mind of God. In conjunction with this experience comes excessive stimulation of subcortical areas in the temporal lobe, particularly the amygdala (associated with emotion) and the hippocampus (associated with autobiographical memory). Excitation of these area results in the attribution of personal meaning to the experience. These powerful TLT events may naturally result from a number of factors, including increased sensitivity or lability of right temporal areas, loss of oxygen to the brain, and changes in blood sugar. These biological conditions may be caused by crisis situations, prolonged anxiety, near-death contingencies, high altitudes, starvation and fasting, diurnal shifts, and other physiological stressors.

A variety of correlational studies on healthy adults have been conducted by scientists in Persinger's lab. Assuming that people who are prone to TLT events will show subtle signs of a tendency towards hemispheric mismatch even when not experiencing a "micro-seizure," Persinger and his colleagues have examined the "brain waves" of a large number of healthy subjects and have compared these results with reports of religious experiences. They have found that a particular low-frequency component of one's electroencephalogram (EEG) trace, known as the theta rhythm, can partially predict the likelihood of having religious experiences.(2) Across healthy subjects, hemispheric mismatch in the theta component correlates with reports of previous "sensed presence" experiences. Furthermore, signs of specifically subcortical (limbic) mismatch in the temporal lobes are correlated with belief in paranormal phenomena, whereas indications of mismatch in the cortex are correlated with previous "sensed presence experiences.(3) In short, there is good correlational evidence that one's tendency to have religious experiences involves interhemispheric circuits in the temporal lobe.

While these results are interesting, Persinger's work involving the actual generation of religious experiences is much more striking. In a typical experiment the subject is isolated from sound and the eyes are covered. A helmet equipped with solenoids is strapped to the head. While reclining in this state of partial sensory deprivation, currents are induced in the subject's brain through the generation of patterned extremely low frequency milligauss magnetic fields in the solenoids. The subject is asked to describe any experiences aloud and this monologue is recorded.

By manipulating the magnetic field the experimenter has some control over the location and pattern of induced current in the brain. When subcortical (limbic) areas in the temporal lobes are targeted, subjects often report distortions in their body images, senses of forced motion, and strong emotional reactions. For example, Dr. Susan Blackmore entered Persinger's experimental chamber and reported a sense of swaying motion, a feeling of being yanked into an upright position, a sense that her leg had been stretched halfway to the ceiling, a period of intense anger, and flash of terror.(4) When temporal cortical areas are targeted for stimulations, subjects often report dreamlike visions (often with mystical or religious content) a "sense of presence," and strong emotions. Journalist Ian Cotton, for example, reported highly detailed visions of his childhood home, a dreamlike visit to the monks of a Tibetan temple, and an emotional "realization" that he too was, and always had been, a Tibetan monk.(5) Visions are particularly sensitive to suggestion, with the content being influenced by, say, the presence of a crucifix or the playing of distinctly Eastern music.

With these experimental results in mind, our three questions might be asked of both Persinger's theory and of his data. Persinger holds that subcortical temporal lobe systems contribute to paranormal experiences and paranormal belief. Cortical areas in the temporal lobes participate in the "sense of self" and, during periods of hen spheric mismatch, in the "sensed presence." His correlational and experimental data both support the notion that temporal circuits are central religious experience. With regard the question of modularity, Persinger's theory specifically denies the existence of a distinct "God module." In his view, the brain areas responsible for religious experience are exactly those areas that also mediate "sense of self," general emotional responses, and autobiographical memory. While his experimental work does not bear on this question, his correlational data support this distributed view. The likelihood of having religious experiences is systematically related to these other properties of cognition.

Persinger's position on the question of innateness is more ambiguous. In his writings, he frequently points out that religious experiences can have positive effects. He sees TLT events as a remedy for extreme anxiety.(6)


The God Experience has had survival value. It has allowed the human species to live through famine, pestilence, and untold horrors. When temporal lobe transients occurred, men and women who might have sunk into a schizophrenic stupor continued to build, plan, and hope.


While such "survival value" facilitate the incorporation of a feature into the genome, the utility of a behavior is not enough to ensure such fixation in DNA. For example, the making of bread is a skill with great survival value, but it is unlikely that this skill genetically encoded. Still, Persinger seems to lean towards a largely nativist account. Unfortunately, the data that has emerged from Persinger's lab does not really address the question of innateness.

Note that, even if a tendency towards experiencing TLT events was found to be influenced by one's genes, this would not necessarily mean that religious experiences have been favored by natural selection. For example, it might be the case that temporal lobe lability contributes to imagination and creativity, and this lability also accidentally results in religious experiences. In short, the question of a "religion instinct" is far from settled by Persinger's work.

Persinger's investigations have yet to fully confirm his views on the neurological bases of religious experience, but he has made tremendous progress. Unlike Ramachandran's work with TLE-IBS patients, Persinger has focused on healthy adults. He has shown that particular activity patterns in the temporal lobes of healthy brains can give rise to experiences that are very similar to the spontaneous religious experiences reported by many.


Answering Revelations

Modern science is beginning to understand the neurological mechanisms that give rise to the religious experiences of the believer. Given these results, the skeptic may present the believer with a simple question: How do you know that your religious experience is not a simple trick of your brain--the unfolding of a perfectly natural temporal lobe transient? How can you trust such an experience when, through science, we can convincingly mimic the face of God?

Notes

1 Michael A. Persinger. Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs (New York: Praeger, 1987).
2. C. Munro and Michael A. Persinger. "Relative Right Temporal Lobe Theta Activity Correlates with Vingiano's Hemispheric Quotient and the 'Sensed Presence."' Perceptual and Motor Skills, 75(1992): 89 903.
3. Michael A. Persinger, "Paranormal and Religious Beliefs May Be Mediated Differently
by Subcortical and Cortical Phenomenological Processes of the Temporal (Limbic) Lobes."
Perceptual and Motor Skills, 76(1993): 247 51.
4. Susan Blackmore. "Alien Abduction: The Inside Story." New Scientist, 19 November (1994): pp. 2 31.
5. Ian Cotton, "Dr. Persinger's God Machine." FREE INQUIRY, 17(1)(1996/97):
47 51.
6. Persinger, Neuropsychological Bases of God Reliefs, p. 138.


?1998 Council for Secular Humanism



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The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door.
-Ralph Nader



Edited by Albino_Jesus (09/19/02 10:44 AM)


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InvisibleRevelation

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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Sclorch]
    #893067 - 09/19/02 11:01 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Brain Misfiring May Explain Out-Of-Body Experience


Did this article really "explain" anything at all? Is it just me, or... Couldn't the brain "misfiring" be a result of the OBE?

Or could it be that brain and the spirit are interwoven, and that perhaps when the brain signals the spirit in this way, an OBE is the result. It's the brain telling the spirit to do it's thing.


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InvisibleRevelation

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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Swami]
    #893101 - 09/19/02 11:11 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Swami, you often say that enculturalisation plays a big role in determining people's explanations about what they think is happening in regards to "paranormal" experiences. Well, couldn't it be said that science also narrows people's minds in the same way? Take this quote for instance:

[``It's another blow against those who believe that the mind and spirit are somehow separate from the brain,'' Shermer said. ``In reality, all experience is derived from the brain.'']

How does Mr Shermer come to this conclusion? Doesn't sound like true objectivity to me. Isn't he just reading into this what he wants/has been conditioned to see?


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Anonymous

Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Sclorch]
    #893129 - 09/19/02 11:21 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Good heavens! This place gets more erudite by the moment.

When science accepts the inclusion of teleology into its framework we will have better answers. Till then the blind lead the blind.

Cheers,


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InvisibleIn(di)go
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: ]
    #893356 - 09/19/02 12:41 PM (14 years, 2 months ago)

In reply to:

When science accepts the inclusion of teleology into its framework we will have better answers. Till then the blind lead the blind


so true... sadly...


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OfflineLearyfan
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Sclorch]
    #901134 - 09/23/02 07:54 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

OBE's are the result of brain misfiring? I've heard this before. I still don't think that that means that people aren't leaving their bodies. Check this out....

Perhaps the "brain misfiring" is simply the bodys justification for what is happening. In order for the body to let you do something like leave it, it has to try and be consistant with what is going on.

In other words, I still think the soul is always in control, and the body just falls in line.



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Mp3 of the month: The Loose Enz - The Black Door



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InvisibleIn(di)go
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Learyfan]
    #901356 - 09/23/02 11:00 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

amen


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OfflineLearyfan
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: In(di)go]
    #901446 - 09/23/02 11:58 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Glad you liked that Lozt Soul. Here's an analogy to go along with that.

Man: I'm in love with a girl

Scientist: No you're not really "in love". The feeling of being "in love" is just the result of your brain blah blah blah blah.


I just feel that the body changes in whichever way it needs to in order to do the souls bidding.



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Mp3 of the month: The Loose Enz - The Black Door



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InvisibleIn(di)go
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Learyfan]
    #901512 - 09/23/02 12:42 PM (14 years, 2 months ago)

i completely agree with you... it might be that the feeling of love is the result of certain chemicals, blah blah (all the scientific talk)... but why does the body react like this? the origin of any physical feeling is always (ALL-WAYS) found in the soul


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Edited by Lozt Soul (09/23/02 12:43 PM)


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OfflineCleverName
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Learyfan]
    #901517 - 09/23/02 12:44 PM (14 years, 2 months ago)

what about the people who are actually dead for a period of time returning and going from athiest to spiritual?


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if you can't find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?

this is the purpose


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InvisibleIn(di)go
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: CleverName]
    #901533 - 09/23/02 12:51 PM (14 years, 2 months ago)

they saw the light... quite literally, i think  :grin:


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Edited by Lozt Soul (09/23/02 12:52 PM)


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OfflineLearyfan
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: In(di)go]
    #901538 - 09/23/02 12:54 PM (14 years, 2 months ago)

LS: Not sure if you're with me just yet on this one, or maybe I didn't get what you said. What i'm saying is that the man is in love, because that's what his soul feels. Now, because the man is in love, the body has to change a little bit in order to represent this change :wink:

Clever Name: The "non-believers"(I hate to devide us again, but....) will tell you that the converted athiests just don't understand the science behind that event. ^^^You know my opinion on it though.


 


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Mp3 of the month: The Loose Enz - The Black Door



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InvisibleIn(di)go
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Learyfan]
    #901562 - 09/23/02 01:12 PM (14 years, 2 months ago)

well sure i agree with you... i don't quite see where the difference between our views on the subject is... the body reacts this way because of the feeling of love to another beeing, or the feeling of beeing in love with another beeing... in order to represent the change to the mind, and to the world...  :smile:


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InvisibleinfidelGOD
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: Sclorch]
    #901593 - 09/23/02 01:26 PM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Brain Misfiring May Explain Out-Of-Body Experience

So where is the explanation?

So they stimulated some brain cells and a woman feels like floating? Wow. big deal.

If they stimulate the pleasure centers of her brain and she feels pleasure will the scientists conclude that the "brain misfiring" explains pleasure?

If they stimulate the visual cortex and she sees some lights, will they conclude that light is created by the brain?

These scientists aren't any closer to explaining the SOURCE of OBE's. They have merely pinpointed the area in the brain where OBE's manifest themselves.


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OfflineAlbino_Jesus
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Re: OBEs = Brain Misfiring? [Re: infidelGOD]
    #901631 - 09/23/02 01:38 PM (14 years, 2 months ago)

In reply to:

So where is the explanation?

So they stimulated some brain cells and a woman feels like floating? Wow. big deal.

If they stimulate the pleasure centers of her brain and she feels pleasure will the scientists conclude that the "brain misfiring" explains pleasure?

If they stimulate the visual cortex and she sees some lights, will they conclude that light is created by the brain?

These scientists aren't any closer to explaining the SOURCE of OBE's. They have merely pinpointed the area in the brain where OBE's manifest themselves.




humans cannot float unassisted.
humans CAN see light.
humans CAN feel pleasure.

if you see lights when none are present, this is hallucination.
if you feel sudden pleasure when nothing triggers it at all, this is also hallucination.
if you get a feeling of floating when you are firmly upon the ground, this is hallucination.

some will say "maybe the soul can see without the brain" or some other such rubbish. in which case I ask, why do we have eyes? if the soul can see unassisted, why do we even HAVE a visual cortex? why do we need a physical body and a brain which performs all the functions that the 'soul' can perform on its own, and apparently better, since there are things we can "see" with our souls that we can't see with our eyes. why did this useless lump of flesh evolve to be inhabited by a much superior being which can do everything it can do, plus more, and 100x better?


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The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door.
-Ralph Nader



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General Interest >> Philosophy, Sociology & Psychology

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