Two scientific teams, from University College London and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, managed to recreate the feeling of stepping out of one’s body using a virtual reality system.

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In Switzerland, Dr. Olaf Blanke, a neuroscientist at the École Polytechnique FÉdÉrale in Lausanne, asked people to don virtual-reality goggles while standing in an empty room. A camera projected an image of each person taken from the back and displayed that image as if it were six feet in front of the subject, who thus saw an illusory image of himself.

Then Dr. Blanke stroked each person’s back for one minute with a stick while simultaneously projecting the image of the stick onto the illusory body.

When the strokes were synchronous, people reported the sensation of being momentarily within the illusory body. When the strokes were not synchronous, the illusion did not occur.

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