Recreational Drug Creates Out-of-Body Illusions

By Bruce Bower, Science News

A popular “club drug” promises to open a scientific window on the strange world of out-of-body experiences, researchers say.

Recreational users of a substance called ketamine often report having felt like they left their bodies or underwent other bizarre physical transformations, according to an online survey conducted by psychologist Todd Girard of Ryerson University in Toronto and his colleagues.

Ketamine, an anesthetic known to interfere with memory and cause feelings of detachment from one’s self or body, reduces transmission of the brain chemical glutamate through a particular class of molecular gateways. Glutamate generally jacks up brain activity. Ketamine stimulates sensations of illusory movement or leaving one’s body by cutting glutamate’s ability to energize certain brain areas, the researchers propose in a paper published online Feb. 15 in Consciousness and Cognition.

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