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Can Virtual Reality Reduce Fear Of Dying In People?

Update Date: Feb 05, 2017 07:25 PM EST

People who have near-death experienced have reported having felt moving through a tunnel, seeing bright lights, meeting spiritual beings, seeing their life flash before their eyes, a sense of elevation, and an out-of-body experience. A near-death experience changes the outlook of the person making him or her more generous, compassionate, charitable, and most importantly, have a reduced fear of death.

By using virtual reality, researchers from Barcelona are examining how an out-of-body experience can help reduce the fear of dying in people.

The idea behind the experiment is to see if people who have an out-of-body experience or consciousness or the person's soul leaving and seeing the body outside of the physical form would influence the person into thinking that survival outside the body is possible and thus reducing the fear of dying. The researchers used an immersive virtual reality wherein they programmed the software to provide the illusion of out-of-body experience to the person wearing the virtual reality headset.

Furthermore, real-time motion capture was used to synchronize the movements of the individual with the virtual reality body. Multisensory stimulation was also used to let the person experience an illusion of touch on both their real and virtual bodies.

The experiment used a total of 32 female participants group into two. Both groups experienced the immersive illusion of being inside their virtual bodies. Once this was accomplished, the groups experienced floating outside of their body and seeing their body from above the ceiling thus mimicking an out-of-body experience.

One group had a continuous multisensory stimulation during their out-of-body experienced while the other group did not. After the virtual reality experience, the participants were asked to answer a questionnaire that included questions regarding fear of death.

The details of the experiment, published in PLOS ONE, saw that both groups of participants scored high on questions regarding their out-of-body experience. However, the group that has continuous multisensory stimulation during their out-of-body experience reported a reduced fear of dying.

The researchers explain that the reduced fear of dying can be because the participants felt that there is life after death or there is a chance of survival even after death.

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