BBC Earth (Asia) - - Science -

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.

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