One of the first researchers to perform laboratorial experiments on the OBE was psychologist Dr. Charles Theodore Tart (1937 - ). In 1966, he invited a young projector to participate in a series of experiments in the sleep laboratory of the University of California - Davis. The historical projectiological experiments took four nights in which the projector - "Miss Z" - was to lay down and try to exit the physical body, while connected to a series of devices that measured her physiological conditions. The objective of the experiments was the identification of a quasi-randomly generated five-digit number, approximately 1.5 meters above her head (impossible to be physically observed).


From Monday to Wednesday, the projector reported having seen the clock while floating out of body. At the times informed by her, the devices demonstrated unusual brain-wave patterns. An absence of rapid-eye movements (REM) was also observed. On Wednesday night, Miss Z identified the target number: 25132. The brain-wave pattern during conscious projection was different from the patterns during waking state, sleep and other altered states of consciousness (an expression proposed by Tart himself).


Between 1965 and 1966, the same pioneer researcher studied Robert Allan Monroe in 8 occasions in the Electroencephalographical Laboratory of the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia.  Equipment like EEG, ECG, and EOG was employed, much to the discomfort of the projector.  Monroe was asked to read a 5-digit, quasi-random number on a shelf placed 2 meters above the floor. 


During the first seven nights, he was not successful. On the eight night, he had two brief lateral projections.  On the first one he witnessed some strangers talking at an unknown place at a distance, fact which could not be confirmed.  However, on the second occasion, Monroe correctly described, outside the room, the woman technician and a man, later identified as her husband.


The ocular movements were slower than in regular sleep. The Stage I brain wave pattern, typical of natural sleep with dreams, was observed almost immediately after Monroe laid down – an extremely rare event, as this stage normally occurs after 80 to 90 minutes of sleep without dreams.  The heart rate was between 65 and 75 beats per minute.


A study by Janet Lee Mitchell (American Society for Psychical Research, ASPR) and Karlis Osis on the traveling clairvoyance of surrealist painter and writer Ingo Swann resulted in 8 of 8 correct target observations with 1 in 40,000 probability for a chance occurrence.  When Swann reported his vision was outside of his body, there was loss of electrical activity and faster brain wave impulses in the visual areas in the occipital lobes. During this state, there was great drop in alpha activity in the right hemisphere than the left, which other organic functions remained normal.


Osis also carried out a “fly-in” experiment with around 100 projectors who had as a target a small office in the fourth floor of ASPR, where they were to inspect four target objects (unknown to them, to be observed in a certain time frame and angle of observation).  Only 15% of them reached this office.  Osis did not think the results of this experiment were significant, because event the best projectors often described objects in terms of their form and colors and not as material things with their exact names.  This experiment demonstrates the hypothesis that the process of information acquisition or cognition during projection of the consciousness is different from what would be expected from physical experience and even from common extrasensory perception.


There were, however, interesting observations.  Some, like a projector from Toronto who observed a fire in a nearby block, got sidetracked by other things along the way.  Others saw the objects with distortions, or reported circular or global vision (seeing in all directions simultaneously).  A barrier placed on the table to separate the different targets was seen as transparent by many of them.


Alexander Tanous related that his awareness traveled several times from Portland (Maine) to the target locale during the experiment.  Not only did he correctly observe the objects and shape of the table, but also noted a tea cup, which indeed was unintentionally left there by another researcher.  Elwood Babbitt also described the target correctly in his third fly-in from Massachusetts. He also correctly drew the shape and location of a broad, small plant, a painting, and small sculpture of a smiling girl.  Teddy Marmoreo of Toronto projected to the site at night before the experiment and saw Osis sleeping at ASPR – an account which was confirmed.


In 1977, Robert Lyle Morris and Stuart Harary of Duke University carried out an inventive experiment.  From the University of CaliforniaSanta Barbara, Harary (his body connected to various physiological devices) was to visit Spirit, his two-month old cat, whose movements in a cage were detected by sensors at Duke.  Sharp behavioral difference was observed when the projector was out of body and near the cat, which became passive, calm, without meowing as if it was seeing or feeling Harary’s presence.  When he wasn’t projected, Spirit was continuously trying to exit the cage it was in and meowed 37 times.  The results were considered p=.01.  Simple telepathy was excluded through a false projection, where Harary simply imagined the occurrence. In posterior studies where the animal did not have affinity with Harary the results were insignificant.


In 1979, Karlis Osis and Donna McCormick verified that a projector correctly identified a random optical target, in a locked room replete of sensors, 114 of 197 (57.87%) trials in 20 sessions.  During these 114 “hits,” kinetic effects were observed demonstrating the presence of something subtle but nonetheless physical.


Related to the OBE, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Laboratory Precognitive Remote Perception (PRP) studies in 1987 already contained 334 formal trials obtained by some 40 “percipients”, who generated written descriptions of an unknown geographical target where the “agent” was located before, during, or after the description.  Then, they were to fill out a check sheet of questions for later analytical judging.  Results have varied from “photographic precision,” to partial correspondence of environment and/or components, to completely inaccurate.  Major geometrical distortions, differences in emphasis of parts of the scene, progression from accurate to inaccurate description or vice-versa are not uncommon.  Brenda Dunne and Dr. Robert Jahn therefore created a more systematic quantitative assessment procedures.  The one that combined effectiveness with simplicity the best was through a list of thirty statistically weighted, binary descriptor questions.


Together with Rodrigo Medeiros, Patricia Sousa runs the Image Target Project, an experiment that invites people from all over the world to drop by a locked room at IAC - Miami with a computer monitor displaying a picture.  The picture is randomly selected by a computer.  A similar experiment series by Wagner Alegretti and Nanci Trivellato, Projective Field, brings dozens of projectors together to a ballroom for a weekend of eight OBE attempts.  After several editions, these experiments have captured relatively rare but uncanny OBE and remote viewing observations of photographic precision.


A similar pilot study with physical objects and physiological monitoring at the University of São Paulo’s sleep laboratory with lucid projectors of the Center for Higher Studies of the Consciousness was recently televised on Globo Reporter (“Projeção Astral”).


Near-Death Experience


Some of most persuasive experimental evidence on out-of-body experience to date is on the near-death experience.


The December 2001 issue of the internationally acclaimed medical journal The Lancet published research by Dr. Pim van Lommel et al conducted in 10 Dutch hospitals for over 10 years. Patients (n = 334) were resuscitated from heart or breathing failures after a fixed amount of time. This ensured the amount of oxygen depletion would be approximately the same. This prospective study showed anoxia was not a leading cause of NDE’s because the incidence was 12 to 18% rather than almost all or almost none as was expected by skeptics. The majority of NDEr’s felt this was one of the most positively marking experiences of their life, helping them re-prioritize their activities toward more purposeful living, and even improving their personality and interactions with other humans.


Cardiologist Michael Sabom is among physicians who can no longer deny that consciousness can exist in the absence of a functioning brain.  With neurosurgeon Michael Spetzler (Barrow Institute, Phoenix, Arizona), he studied the pivotal Pam Reynold’s case. The 35-year-old was placed on “standstill” – that is, her heart was stopped, brain function ceased, and her eyes and ears were shut – for an intracranial procedure. Reynolds reports she “popped out” of her body through a tunnel experience and was surprised to see her body undergo what looked like a groin operation. Unbeknownst to her, the procedure required the insertion of catheters for a heart-lung machine. “That can’t be right,” she thought before she saw her long-dead grandmother, friends, and other relatives. Eventually, she says, her uncle instructed her to return.  It felt like “plunging into a pool of ice water.”  This case begs the question: “how can one hallucinate without brain function?” Of course, it cannot. Skeptics believe, however, that NDE’s start and end with a dying brain.


Many skeptics ascribe NDE perceptions to supposed perceptions of a dying brain.  However, lucid projectors have out-of-body experiences by will without a dying brain condition and can still see “beings of life,” and even perceive the characteristic “tunnel” often associated with NDE’s. More importantly, they are able to make accurate observations of distant physical environments and interact among themselves while projected. For instance, in the van Lommel’s study, one patient recognized the nurse who removed his dentures while he (or rather, his body) was in a coma.  Under Michael Sabom, MD, another prospective study is underway at Dallas Hartford Hospital in Texas employing image targets placed high above the bed. 


Another interesting avenue of research are the NDE’s and pre-birth memories of children, because their accounts are much less likely to be attributed to acculturation or hidden memories (cryptomnesia) from information they may have in their memory from, say, a documentary on NDE. Compared to near-birth experiences and pre-natal out-of-body experiences with posterior confirmations, the Journal of Resuscitation’s report by Southampton General Hospital (UK) does not seem so controversial. It reported that 11% of NDE patients in the study had memories of events during the unconscious period, and that 6% of the resuscitated after cardiac arrest had NDE’s. 


Central to the debate is the kind of worldview scientists adopt.  Consciousness-centered paradigms point out that even though extraordinary experiences can be triggered by electromagnetic pulses, stress (e.g. drowning victim), physical trauma (e.g. head injury), and chemicals, they are also produced spontaneously or by will.  Detected neural activity that is characteristic of such altered states is not necessarily the cause: it is just as logically plausible that it is a concomitant effect.


It seems that no matter how the credible and persuasive the experimental evidence, there is no replacement for personal experience.  This is the motivation behind the development of projectiology, a first- and second-person science of projections of the consciousness, and the consciential paradigm which requires scientists to have their own OBE’s and arrive at an evolving consensus of their experiences, including – potentially – joint or group OBE’s.