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Autoscopy is the experience in which an individual perceives the surrounding environment from a different perspective, from a position outside of their own body.[1] Autoscopy comes from the ancient Greek autós (αὐτός, "self") and skopós (σκοπός, "watcher").

Autoscopy has been of interest to humankind from time immemorial and is abundant in the folklore, mythology, and spiritual narratives of most ancient and modern societies. Cases of autoscopy are commonly encountered in modern psychiatric practice.[2] According to neurological research, autoscopic experiences are hallucinations.[1][3] Their root cause is unclear. Autoscopic experiences can include non-mirroring real-time images and the experiencer may be able to move.


Experiences are characterized by the presence of the following three factors:[citation needed]

  • disembodiment – an apparent location of the self outside one's body;
  • impression of seeing the world from an elevated and distanced, but egocentric visuo-spatial perspective;
  • impression of seeing one's own body from this perspective (autoscopy).

The term derives from the union of the Greek words autos ("self") and skopeo ("looking at"). The autoscopic phenomenon is classified in the following six tipologies: autoscopic hallucination, he-autoscopy or heautoscopic proper, feeling of a presence, out of body experience, negative and inner forms of autoscopy.[4]

Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, and Department of Neurology, University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland, have reviewed some of the classical precipitating factors of autoscopy. These are sleep, drug abuse, and general anesthesia as well as neurobiology. They have compared them with recent findings on neurological and neurocognitive mechanisms of autoscopy; the reviewed data suggest that autoscopic experiences are due to functional disintegration of lower-level multisensory processing and abnormal higher-level self-processing at the temporoparietal junction.[1][5]

Related disorders[edit]

Heautoscopy is a term used in psychiatry and neurology for the reduplicative hallucination of "seeing one's own body at a distance".[6] It can occur as a symptom in schizophrenia[7] and epilepsy. Heautoscopy is considered a possible explanation for doppelgänger phenomena.[8]

The term polyopic heautoscopy refers to cases where more than one double is perceived. In 2006, Peter Brugger and his colleagues described the case of a man who experienced five doubles resulting from a tumor in the insular region of his left temporal lobe.[9]

Another related autoscopy disorder is known as negative autoscopy (or negative heautoscopy) a psychological phenomenon in which the sufferer does not see their reflection when looking in a mirror. Although the sufferer's image may be seen by others, they claim not to see it.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Blanke, O., Mohr, C. (2005). Out-of-body experience, heautoscopy, and autoscopic hallucination of neurological origin Implications for neurocognitive mechanisms of corporeal awareness and self consciousness Archived 2014-06-30 at the Wayback Machine. Brain Research Reviews 50: 184–199.
  2. ^ Dening, T. R., Berrios, G. E. (1994). Autoscopic phenomena. British Journal of Psychiatry 165: 808–817.
  3. ^ Brugger, P; Regard, M; Landis, T. (1997). Illusory reduplication of one's own body: phenomenology and classification of autoscopic phenomena. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 2: 19–38.
  4. ^ Francesca Anzellotti; Valeria Onofrj; Valerio Maruotti; Leopoldo Ricciardi; Raffaella Franciotti; Laura Bonanni; Astrid Thomas; Marco Onofrj (January 22, 2010). "Autoscopic phenomena: case report and review of literature". Behav Brain Funct. 7 (2): 2. doi:10.1186/1744-9081-7-2. OCLC 700286150. PMC 3032659. PMID 21219608.
  5. ^ Blanke, O., Castillo, V. (2007). Clinical neuroimaging in epileptic patients with autoscopic hallucinations and out-of-body experiences. Epileptologie 24: 90–96.
  6. ^ Damas Mora JM, Jenner FA, Eacott SE (1980). "On heautoscopy or the phenomenon of the double: Case presentation and review of the literature". Br J Med Psychol. 53 (1): 75–83. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8341.1980.tb02871.x. PMID 6989391.
  7. ^ Blackmore S (1986). "Out-of-Body Experiences in Schizophrenia: A Questionnaire Survey". Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 174 (10): 615–619. doi:10.1097/00005053-198610000-00006. PMID 3760852. S2CID 24509827.
  8. ^ Brugger, P; Agosti, R; Regard, M; Wieser, H. G; Landis, T. (1994). Heautoscopy, epilepsy, and suicide. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgergy and Psychiatry 57: 838–839.
  9. ^ Brugger, P; Blanke, O; Regard, M; Bradford, D. T; Landis, T. (2006). Polyopic heautoscopy: Case report and review of the literature. Cortex: 42 666–674.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bhaskaran, R; Kumar, A; Nayar, K. K. (1990). Autoscopy in hemianopic field. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry: 53 1016–1017.
  • Blanke, O; Landis, T; Seeck, M. (2004). Out-of-body experience and autoscopy of neurological origin. Brain 127: 243–258.
  • Brugger, P. (2002). Reflective mirrors: Perspective-taking in autoscopic phenomena. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 7: 179–194.
  • Brugger, P; Regard, M; Landis, T. (1996). Unilaterally felt "presences": the neuropsychiatry of one's invisible doppelgänger. Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, and Behavioral Neurology 9: 114–122.
  • Devinsky, O., Feldmann, E., Burrowes, K; Bromfield, E. (1989). Autoscopic phenomena with seizures. Archives of Neurology 46: 1080–1088.
  • Lukianowicz, N. (1958). Autoscopic phenomena. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 80: 199–220.

External links[edit]