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Psychology Subject Spotlight

Out of body experiences: explaining the brain.
with Dr Jane Aspell from Anglia Ruskin University

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In this fascinating Subject Spotlight, Dr Jane Aspell considers the meaning of an out-of-body experience (OBE), and both the scientific and paranormal perspectives on the phenomenon. She explores the different circumstances in which OBEs commonly occur, and how they are scientifically studied. She looks at two case studies which have aided research and our understanding of out-of-body-experiences, and explains some of the discoveries that relate OBEs to the brain’s temporo-parietal junction and certain abnormalities in the brain. Finally, Jane sets you a task to critically compare OBEs with a similar phenomenon called heautoscopy.

Dr Jane AspellAnglia Ruskin UniversityPsychology

All episodes
1. What is an out of body experience?
2. Case studies: What is an OBE like?
3. The neurology behind out of body experiences
4. Activity: Something even more bizarre

About the university

Anglia Ruskin University
Anglia Ruskin University

Anglia Ruskin University is an innovative global university with students from 185 countries at our campuses in Cambridge, Chelmsford, Peterborough and Writtle. These students are at the heart of our University, and we're delighted that our final-year undergraduates are positive about their educational experience. Our community is also incredibly important to us, and we're proud of the role we play in our cities and the wider region – including the positive effect on jobs and the local economy. It is this impact that helped us become the THE University of the Year 2023, a prestigious award that recognises our success in delivering high impact projects focused on the difference we make in the region and communities where we’re based as well as the contributions our students and graduates make to society.

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Meet the academic
Dr Jane Aspell

Dr Jane Aspell is an Associate Professor and Head of the Self & Body Lab at Anglia Ruskin University. Jane is a cognitive neuroscientist and her research focuses on how the brain creates our sense of self. Jane’s ongoing research goal is to investigate how the brain’s processing and interpretation of signals from the body provides the neurobiological basis for the self. To do this she runs laboratory experiments in which multisensory conflicts are generated in order to distort body and self perception in neurotypical participants, participants with autism, and participants with chronic pain. Her research aims to answer questions such as: How is the self related to the body? Which brain mechanisms are crucial for self-consciousness? How does the conscious experience of being a self with and within a body emerge from the integration of signals from multiple senses? And how do these more basic processes provide the foundation for 'higher', more conceptual levels of self and personal identity? 

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