You may already know this, but if you didn’t, here’s a secret: ghosts aren’t real. Of course, you may have at one time or another felt like you were being watched, or felt like you weren’t the only one in the room even though it was empty, at some point in your life. Now, scientists have figured out why people “sense” ghosts, and have even created a “ghostly presence” in a lab.
Swiss researcher Dr. Giulio Rognini, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), explained to BBC News how some people think they’re in the presence of a ghost even when they’re alone.
“The sensation is very vivid. They feel somebody but they cannot see it. It is always a felt presence.”
Dr. Rognini and his team sought out to understand why some people — oftentimes people with certain neurological conditions, or people who experience extreme conditions (such as mountaineers and explorers) — are prone to experience a “ghostly presence” apart from themselves.
“What is astonishing is that they frequently report that the movements they are doing or the posture they are assuming at that specific moment is replicated by the presence. So if the patient is sitting, they feel the presence is sitting. If they are standing, the presence is standing, and so on.”
Dr. Rognini’s team scanned the brains of 12 volunteers of people who had at some point in their life reported feeling a ghostly presence. In his findings, published in the journal Current Biology, Dr. Rognini’s team found damage in the areas of the brain that are normally associated with movement, the body’s position in space, and self-awareness.
To replicate their findings, the team then brought in new volunteers, who were not known to have had neurological damage and self-identified as being skeptical of ghosts. They were blindfolded and told to manipulate a robot while a second robot, with an arm touching the subjects’ backs, mimicked the movements, according to the Independent.
Professor Olaf Blanke explained that once the back-touching robot was set to a delay, the subjects got terrified and started imagining ghosts.
“Our experiment induced the sensation of a foreign presence in the laboratory for the first time. It shows that it can arise under normal conditions, simply through conflicting sensory-motor signals.”
In fact, some of the volunteers were so convinced that they were surrounded by ghosts — one reported at least four ghostly presences — that two of them asked to be let out of the experiment.
The team’s conclusion — that ghosts aren’t real — isn’t exactly news in the scientific community. But their research now shows exactly why certain people can be convinced that they’re experiencing ghosts.
[Image courtesy of: The Guardian]