Olaf Blanke (born 1969) is a Swiss and Germanphysician, neurologist and neuroscientist. He holds the Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Cognitive Neuroprosthetics at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). He directs the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Brain Mind Institute of EPFL and is professor of Neurology at Geneva University Hospitals. Blanke is known for his research on the neurological bases of self-consciousness and out-of-body experiences.
Blanke’s research is dedicated to the neuroscientific study of multisensory body perception and self-consciousness. Together with Thomas Metzinger he defined the concept of bodily self-consciousness and showed that bodily self-consciousness is based on the integration of specific bodily signals, including interoceptive and exteroceptive signals.
For his research he adopted different virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) technologies with human neuroscience methods to investigate and induce controlled altered states of bodily self-consciousness. The group further integrated VR and robotics with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify the cortical network underlying bodily self-consciousness. The description of this cortical network was extended and supported by electrophysiological and neuroimaging data in different patient populations with altered states of bodily self-consciousness such as out-of-body experiences, the sense of presence or presence hallucinations, or Doppelgänger experiences.
Blanke’s medical activities focus on the field of cognitive neuroprosthetics, and are dedicated to the design and clinical application of VR and robotics technology as novel diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. He developed and tested several new VR-based procedures for patients suffering from chronic pain such as complex regional pain syndrome, phantom limb pain in amputation, and spinal cord injury. Recently, he has developed new diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in patients suffering from neurodegeneration such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies.
He has also an interest in complex conscious experiences and their varied personal, neuroscientific, historical and cultural aspects. He has studied out-of-body experiences and astral travel, doppelgänger experiences, the sense of presence, as well as free will, and thought insertion.
Thomas Metzinger (born 12 March 1958) is a German philosopher and professor of theoretical philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. As of 2011, he is an Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, a co-founder of the German Effective Altruism Foundation, president of the Barbara Wengeler Foundation, and on the advisory board of the Giordano Bruno Foundation. From 2008 to 2009 he served as a Fellow at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study; from 2014 to 2019 he was a Fellow at the Gutenberg Research College; from 2019 to 2021 he was awarded a Senior-Forschungsprofessur by the Ministry of Science, Education and Culture. From 2018 to 2020 Metzinger worked as a member of the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence.
Out-of-body experiences with Olaf Blanke
Neuroprosthetics of the mind — robots for our brain | Olaf Blanke | TEDxCaFoscariU
Embodiment and bodily self-consciousness, Olaf Blanke, prof. EPFL
OLAF BLANKE – NARRATIVES OF A NEAR FUTURE
Olaf Blanke – How to down-regulate a ‘ghost’
Breathing may change your mind about free will
Neuroprosthetics for the mind, Prof. Olaf Blanke