Journal of Near-Death Studies

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 15–28 | Cite as

The physiology of the tunnel

  • Susan J. Blackmore
  • Tom S. Troscianko


Several theories to account for the origin of tunnel hallucinations and tunnel experiences near death are considered: (1) the idea of a “real” tunnel; (2) representations of transition; (3) reliving birth memories; (4) imagination; and (5) physiological origins. Three different physiological theories are considered that related the tunnel form to the structure of the visual cortex. All can account for much of the phenomenology of the tunnel experience, and all lead to testable predictions. It is argued that the tunnel experience involves a change in the mental model of the self in the world. Because of this, an experience of purely physiological origin, with no implications for other worlds or for survival, can nevertheless produce lasting changes in the sense of self and reduce the fear of death.


Visual Cortex Mental Model Testable Prediction Lasting Change Physiological Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan J. Blackmore
    • 1
  • Tom S. Troscianko
    • 1
  1. 1.Perceptual Systems Research Centre Department of PsychologyUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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