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.
Bibliographical noteThis is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Cognitive Neuropsychiatry on 10/8/16, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/13546805.2016.1203769
- HOBT task
- Out-of-body experiences
- perspective taking
- temporo-parietal junction