Scientists Pinpointed the Part of the Brain that Generates the “Ghostly Presence”

By Marianna Catege

Even as the world becomes more and more science-based, ghost stories are still told and believed by some. Today, researchers are finally using science to tackle the unexplained phenomenon of the feeling of a ghostly presence.

Dr. Giulio Rognini, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), explains that this vivid sensation is common in people who experience extreme weather conditions, such as mountaineers and explorers, as well as in people with certain neurological conditions. These people often believe that “the movements they are doing or the posture they are assuming at that specific moment is replicated by the presence.”  To investigate this, Rognini’s scientists scanned the brains of twelve people with neurological disorders who had reported feelings of a ghostly presence previously. They found that these people had damage to the parts of the brain responsible for movement, perception of the body’s position in space, and self-awareness, as published in the Journal of Current Biology.

To take the experiment even further, scientists performed an experiment on 48 healthy volunteers who had never reported feelings of the paranormal. To recreate the ghostly sensation in the lab, they blindfolded the participants and instructed them to maneuver a robot in front of them with their hands. Another robot traced the exact movements on the person’s back. When the movements at the front and the back of the person took place at the same time, nothing strange was reported. However, when the scientists added a delay to the robot moving on the back of the person, the subject reported a feeling of one or more apparitions.

This experiment allowed scientists to better understand patients with neurological conditions, such as schizophrenia.