Out-of-Body Experiences and Other Complex Dissociation Experiences in a Patient with Unilateral Peripheral Vestibular Damage and Deficient Multisensory Integration
Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are illusory perceptions of one's body from an elevated disembodied perspective. Recent theories postulate a double disintegration process in the personal (visual, proprioceptive and tactile disintegration) and extrapersonal (visual and vestibular disintegration) space as the basis of OBEs. Here we describe a case which corroborates and extends this hypothesis. The patient suffered from peripheral vestibular damage and presented with OBEs and lucid dreams. Analysis of the patient's behaviour revealed a failure of visuo-vestibular integration and abnormal sensitivity to visuo-tactile conflicts that have previously been shown to experimentally induce out-of-body illusions (in healthy subjects). In light of these experimental findings and the patient's symptomatology we extend an earlier model of the role of vestibular signals in OBEs. Our results advocate the involvement of subcortical bodily mechanisms in the occurrence of OBEs.