11/10/2014 08:24 am ET Updated Nov 10, 2014

The Brain Makes Its Own Ghosts

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When I was little, whenever I climbed a flight of stairs in the dark, the climbing quickly turned to running. About halfway up the steps, every time, I was overcome with an unshakeable certainty that there was a monster behind me, chasing me. I won’t say I never get that feeling anymore, but I force myself to walk up the stairs slowly and calmly when it happens now, swallowing my fear. That’s called being an adult.

The sense of someone near you when no one is actually there is called “feeling of presence” or FOP, apparently, according to a new study in Current Biology that identified the regions of the brain associated with this sensation and, wildly, recreated it in a lab setting.

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