Astral projection experiences are based on the idea that humans can physically leave their body during a dream state, hypnosis or under any particularly relaxing circumstance.
This phenomenon is also referred to as “out-of-body experiences.” Many believe that during these experiences, it is possible to travel through space and time, where the laws of reality are non existent and where we can communicate with spiritual beings from other dimensions.
Some surveys reveal that as many as 8 to 20 percent of people claim to have had astral projection experiences at some point in their life.
But how can we establish whether or not there is any truth behind these claims?
One reason scientists dismiss these experiences as being real is because the people claiming to have travelled to other places cannot give verifiable details or any other tangible information regarding the details of their astral projection experience.
According to Susan Blackmore, a researcher and the author of “Beyond the Body: An Investigation of Out-of-the-Body Experiences”, people who have claimed to have had astral projection experiences proved in several surveys to have higher scores of hypnotizability and the ability to completely become immersed in something – whether real or not.
In a 2015 study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers led by Dr. Arvid Guterstam used a brain scanner and a certain type of camera during a medical trial in which they were able to induce the illusion of an astral projection experience.
When examining which parts of the brain showed activity during these experiences, the region controlling body ownership (sense of body) and spatial orientation were the most active.
Tests done on animals showed that these regions contained what is called “GPS cells” in charge of navigation and memory. These tests awarded them the Nobel Prize in physiology of medicine in 2014.
It is also possible that some out-of-body experiences are the result of what is called "microsleep" — falling asleep for a fraction of a second to a minute, without realizing it. While transitioning into a deeper state of sleep, the person may believe they have been out of their bodies when in fact they have simply experienced microsleep.
As can be expected by the astonishing number of claims, it wasn’t hard for Andra M Smith and Claude Messierwere from the University of Ottawa to find someone who stated that she has the ability to induce astral projection experiences. So, they decided to place this participant into an MRI machine.
The scans showed “strong deactivation of the visual cortex” while “activating the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery.”
In laymen’s terms; it’s the part of the brain where you feel your body in relation to the world. This proves that what she is experiencing is real, but has nothing to do with the paranormal. The study was captured in their paper, published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience.
One controversial theory describes the astral body as connected through a metaphorical silver cord (sort of like an umbilical cord) that tethers the roaming consciousness to the physical body.
Although the practical applications of astral projection could have astounding benefits for human evolution — from time travel, planet exploration, to accomplishing some of the world’s most dangerous investigations — there's no evidence that astral projection experiences happen outside of the body instead of inside the brain.