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This book, which covers Visions and hallucinations, explains what causes them and summarises how many hallucinations have been caused by each event or activity. It also provides specific help with questions people have asked us, such as ‘Is my medication giving me hallucinations?’.

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Observations placeholder

Ramachandran, Dr V S - The Mirror box



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


We can fool the 5 senses and create new virtual worlds.  One of the ways Dr Ramachandran used was a 'mirror box' a simple box with a mirror that made the arm that was still intact appear to be the arm that was no longer there.  The patient looked through a slit in the box and appeared to  see the amputated hand or arm.

Thus vision can provide the illusion that we have an operating limb.  In the absence of any form of feedback from the limb itself, the virtual world created relies on vision as its main input and assumes that the thing it sees belongs to itself.

A description of the experience

Phantoms in the Brain – Dr V. S. Ramachandran [Professor and Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition, University of California and visiting fellow All Souls College, Oxford]

If pain is an illusion, how much influence do senses like vision have over our subjective experiences?  To find out, I tried a somewhat diabolical experiment on .. my patients.

When Mary came into the lab, I asked her to place her phantom right hand, palm down, into the mirror box.  I then asked her to put a grey glove on her good left hand and place it in the other side of the box, in a mirror image position.  After making sure she was comfortable I instructed one of my graduate students to hide under the  curtained table and put his gloved left hand into the same side of the box where Mary's good hand rested, above hers on a false platform.

When Mary looked into the box she could see not only the student's gloved left hand (which looked exactly like her own gloved left hand) but also its reflection in the mirror, as if she were looking at her own phantom right hand wearing a glove.

When the student now made a fist or used his index finger pad to touch the ball of his thumb, Mary felt her phantom moving vividly.... vision was enough to trick her brain into experiencing movements in her phantom

The source of the experience

Ramachandran, Dr V S

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps