COULD YOU HAVE AN OBE?
Almost anyone can have an OBE but certain characteristics make it more likely. One is ‘psychological absorption’. Scoring high on this measure means you are easily engrossed in films, books or music, ignoring everything else around you. You may be susceptible to hypnosis, have a rich fantasy life and remember having imaginary playmates as a child.
Another is ‘positive schizotypy’. This sounds as though it’s related to schizophrenia and in a way it is. The idea is that everyone lies on a continuum from low to high schizotypy. High schizotypes have unusual dissociative experiences, disorganised thoughts, flat emotions and unstable moods, but are more imaginative and creative too. They include many writers, artists and poets, as well as OBErs. A third indication is ‘temporal lobe lability’, meaning the brain’s temporal lobes are more unstable or unpredictable. Labile types report more OBEs but also more lucid dreams, sleep paralysis, visions and hallucinations.
These connections have been known for some time but a new discovery is revealing more about the underlying brain function. OBErs react differently to the ‘pattern glare task’. Look for a minute at the pattern of black and white stripes below. If you see just black and white stripes, that’s fine. But if you are susceptible to pattern glare the stripes will jiggle and shift, with strange shapes and illusory colours drifting across the stripes. In this case you are more likely to have OBEs.
This test is thought to reveal cortical hyper-excitability, meaning that those who see the illusions have more easily excitable brains. Hyper-excited visual systems produce tunnel experiences, excited auditory systems produce the whirring and grinding noises associated with sleep paralysis, and when our vestibular systems go wild we feel like we’re floating and flying. In other words, this tendency to excitation leads to classic OBEs.