Magnetic Fields Affecting Brain Activity / Perception / Paranormal Experiences



Re: Paranormal peaks and troughs

Donna Black said:
An acquaintance of mine is looking into correlations between paranormal activity and magnetic fields, and he's posed a couple of questions.

The geomagnetic/paranormal correlation is one I have looked at in recent years, specifically in relation to ghost sightings. As you point out, there is a sparsity of reliable data, but the limited database I've looked at is at least intriguing. My interest has been to compare sunspot maxima data - which has correlated reasonably well in my work. In this respect, I found the work of Forshuvud and Persinger useful (referenced in Paul Devereux's range of books). I covered it in a little detail on one (lengthy) page of my website, if you're interested. I think the notes & references to that page contain refs. for Devereux et al.
Link is dead. The extensive web essay cited can be accessed via the Wayback Machine:
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Thanks very much for that, Hermes! A really excellent site. :)

I've mailed my acquaintance with your site details and I'm sure he'll find much there to interest him.
"seeing things" - Is it "all in your head?&qu

I've come up with a very unscientific yet extremely versatile theory that I think can be applied to any "sighting" that is strictly a visual encounter. You know how "ghost documentaries" always talk about how "ghosts" can measurably alter electromagnetic fields and that is what the researchers are always investigating? Well, it occured to me: Isn't the human brain a largely electrical organ? If "ghosts" can measurably alter electromagnetic fields, it doesn't seem to me like that much of a step for them to mess with a person's mind in such a way as to put a "picture" in their head of something their eyes aren't detecting. Or do electromagnetic fields have nothing to do with biological brain function?

Could I also apply this theory to "hearing things?" Actually, couldn't my theory explain ANY kind of "contact" with supernatural entities, UFOs, or cryptids? - provided that no physical evidence is left behind? Not that ghosts are associated with the word "physical" anyway. But while alien spacecraft and cryptids, if real, are physical entities, as long as the person doesn't do anything more than "see", "hear", or "smell" the anomalous object, couldn't my theory of "ghostly practical joking" be applied to the encounter? Feel free to tell me whatever you think of this idea. Don't hold back negative comments if my theory has serious holes in it. I love all kinds of fortean phenomena, but I'm mainly interested in cryptozoology and discussing anything else is pretty much a learning experience for me. So go ahead, teach me!
I recently read that perceptual psychologists have been making use of strong magnetic fields to stimulate the brain, and in conjunction with the latest mri scanning machines have been able to cause experimental subjects to see and hear and smell all manner of things. The fields they use are intense and stimulate a very small specific area identified by the scans. More interestingly, they have been able to trigger personal memories and even produce a "religious or transcendental experience" stimulating one particular area. Magnetic radiation can now also be detected a metre ( I think) from the head or body. So plenty of scope here for interacting fields!:D
Please don't quote me on this, because I'm the most unscientific person ever, and also have a terrible memory. But I believe that a Dr Michael Persinger in Canada has conducted experiments involving the application of an EM field to the temporal lobes. This resulted in hallucination though I'm not sure whether it was purely visual or auditory as well. :) :) :)
Our senses sense by various means (chemical, optical, acoustic, etc), so insofar as our brains are sensitive to magnetic fields the brain too is one of our 'senses'.

Exactly what it is sensing in the case of anomalous encounters is largely what this board is about!

So, Yes, it is all in your head ultimately, but it's what puts it into your head that is the question! I tend not to believe the skeptical view that all paranormal stuff is 'just imagination'.

But whether the external stuff is just inanimate physics, or is the result of separate intelligences, is also a major question!
Yes Ken, I've been thinking along those lines for many years, in fact I think you've encapsulated the views of many Forteans.
I read an article somewhere, at the beginning of last year, maybe, about some researchers trying to tie together ghost sightings and visual hallucinations. Was it FT, New scientist, or on the web?
Can't remember.

Anyway, It seemed that magnetic fields played a factor. Magnetic fields have been put forward for years as a source of phenomena. "It's not out there, it's in here," sort of thing. Still valid though.

Just because Dr Susan Blackmore got strapped into a couch and had a powerful electro-magnet strapped to her bonce and experienced something strange. That doesn't mean the abilty to sense and interpret the field effects doesn't have some valid purpose.

ESP. That feeling that someone's behind you, or watching you. Could be a real sensation caused by a disturbance in the field.

Ghosts. Sources of water, or magnetic anomalies, acting as tape recorders of strongly emotionally charged events.

And then the crossover between mental illusions and actual phenomena, or projections into the physical. Earth-lights and the situation of some ancient sites and monuments. Places where the geological environment is under physical stress and human beings and animals can sense it.

I believe ther's more. Maybe even quantum effects. People so attuned to each other that they can sense the tiniest peturbation in each other's field across immense distances. Why not?

Maybe not so easy to detect on a small personal scale as subtle variations in emotion play a big factor and the causative, or resulting eletromagnetic disturbance may be tiny. But, on a larger society sized scale? What about the random number generator fluctuations after Sept11? Thousands, millions of people vibrating like tuning forks to the same, similtaneously observed news reports.

I'm almost sold on the idea.
I don't think you're being unscientific at all, Ken.
But what piques my curiosity is this.
I can understand why neurologists should study the effects of EM fields on the human brain. I can also understand why the investigators of paranormal phenomena should want to measure the strength of associated EM fields. What I want to know is, is anyone researching into where the EM fields associated with paranormal phenomena are emanating from? And if so, where can I read about them?
I already subscribe to FT and The New Scientist.:confused:
I had a period during which whenever I passed close to a shop dummy (usually in big stores) I felt a very strange sensation, best described as a feeling of 'cold vacuum'. This happened even if I backed closed to one that I hadn't seen - a kind of no life body sensor. This effect stayed with me very strongly for about a year or so, and even now I feel a kind of uncomfortableness next to one of these dummies. Could the normal body radiate some sort of em waves, and the dummy body shape produce a different field lacking in some information detail?
That could be as simple as your body picking up the absence of the minimal traces a real person does leave - a small degree of movement, some heat, slight scent - not even all necessarily perceptible on a conscious level, but perhaps you were able to notice that they weren't there. If our brains patch up our bits of perception with what they expect to be there, perhaps the sensation was a result of a disparity between the expectation and actuality.
ghosts & electromagnetism

Did anyone see "working Lunch" B.b.c. 2 today? There was an item on Muncaster Castle in Cumbria and the latest efforts to attract more tourists with light shows etc. inc. projections of ghosts. In amongst all this was a guy supposedly from a Uni. armed with laptops (and gear which we weren't shown!) who had spent last night in the "haunted bedroom" and claimed to have detected electromagnetic disturbances in the area showing waveforms on one of the pcs. He reports that he is about to demonstrate the em causation of ghosts and hauntings!
Just an April Fools' wind-up or simply publicity stunt?;)
ok if ghosts are susposed to affect or utilise electricity/electrical equipment like torches for example to materialise etc

so why arent powerstations over run (sic) with ghosts?

cos i wouldve thourght that the electricity wouldve acted like a beacon drawing all types of manifestations to congregate

(this post proberly needs a thread of its own)
Actually I think there has been some case shown where ghosts and EM-disturbances have gone hand in had. Though which is cause and which is effect is debated. After all we known that EM-induction to the brain can cause hallucinations.

It's hoplesly reductive to say that if you've found an explanation that fits one case then it must fit all others.
Xanatic said:
Hmmm, I meant that in plural, cases.

So did I. I should have been clearer.

The expl;anation works for some cases but to then use it to explain all phenomina or even ones wich seem similer is suspect.
Yes, the person you are thinking of is Dr.Jason Braithwaite, a neuroscientist at Birmingham University. He is doing long term research at Muncaster castle and is using a system called MADS (Magnetic Anomaly Detection System); basically, ultra sensitive magnetometers linked to laptops for later analysis. The system was partially paid for by ASSAP, the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena.

Jason gave a talk at the recent Muncaster Castle paranormal conference - I was due to give a talk too but the total travel cost (£144) put me off. Jason't work follows on from the work of Canadian Neuroscientist, Dr.Michael Persinger, who also believe that ghosts are the product of hallucinations induced by em fields.

Have look here:
Science, not Superstition
See also the work parascience is doing based on Persinger's work:
Link is obsolete. The current link is:

Ghosts Or Just Bad Wiring?


Published online: 09 December 2004; | doi:10.1038/news041206-10

Electrical brainstorms busted as source of ghosts

Roxanne Khamsi
Doubt cast on theory that magnetic fields spark religious feelings.

Studies showing that magnetic stimulation of the brain induces spiritual experiences are being queried by researchers who cannot reproduce key results. If the traditional theory is wrong, scientists will be left struggling to explain how such thoughts and sensations are generated.

In the past, scientists have claimed that religious or out-of-body experiences result from excessive bursts of electrical activity in the brain. In the 1980s, Michael Persinger, a neuroscientist at the Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada, began exploring this idea through a series of experiments.

Participants wore helmets that targeted their temporal lobes with weak magnetic fields, of roughly the same strength as those generated by a computer monitor. Persinger found that this caused 80% of the people he tested to feel an unexplained presence in the room.

Persinger suggested that magnetism causes bursts of electrical activity in the temporal lobes of the brain, and he linked this to the spiritual experiences.

Blinding science

A group of Swedish researchers has now repeated the work, but they say their study involves one crucial difference. They ensured that neither the participants nor the experimenters interacting with them had any idea who was being exposed to the magnetic fields, a 'double-blind' protocol.

When I went to Persinger's lab I had the most extraordinary experiences I've ever had.

Psychologist Susan Blackmore
Bristol, UK

Without such a safeguard, "people in the experimental group who are highly suggestible would pick up on cues from the experimenter and they would be more likely to have these types of experiences," says Pehr Granqvist of Uppsala University, who led the research team.

Beyond the double-blind aspect, Granqvist says the nuts and bolts of the experiment mirrored those conducted in the past. He and his colleagues tested 43 undergraduate students by exposing them to magnetic fields that ranged from 3 to 7 microtesla and were aimed just above and in front of the ears, to target the temporal lobes.

They also tested a control group of 46 volunteers who wore the helmet but were not exposed to the magnetic field. The volunteers were then asked to complete questionnaires about what they experienced during each session. The researchers report their results online in Neuroscience Letters1.

Strong spirits

In contrast to the results from Persinger and others, the team found that the magnetism had no discernable effects. Two out of the three participants in the Swedish study that reported strong spiritual experiences during the study belonged to the control group, as did 11 out of the 22 who reported subtle experiences.

Granqvist acknowledges that this seems to be quite a high level of spiritual experiences overall, but says that it matches the level that Persinger saw in his control groups.

The researchers say they do not know what neurological mechanism could be generating the experiences. However, using personality tests they did find that people with an orientation toward unorthodox spirituality were more likely to feel a supernatural presence, as were those who were, in general, more suggestible.

Field defence

Persinger, however, takes issue with the Swedish attempts to replicate his work. "They didn't replicate it, not even close," he says. He argues that the Swedish group did not expose the subjects to magnetic fields for long enough to produce an effect. He also stresses that some of his studies were double blinded. Although the experimenters knew when the magnetic field was being applied, he says that they did not know what effect the field was expected to induce.

Susan Blackmore, a psychologist based in Bristol, UK, is also reluctant to give up on the theory just yet. She has firsthand experience of Persinger's methods. "When I went to Persinger's lab and underwent his procedures I had the most extraordinary experiences I've ever had," she says. "I'll be surprised if it turns out to be a placebo effect."

She too thinks that the Swedish researchers may have used magnetic fields that varied subtly from those of Persinger. "But double-blind experiments will ultimately give us the final answer," she says.


1. Granqvist P., et al. Neurosci. Lett., published online doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2004.10.057 (2004).

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Persinger (magnetism experiments) controversy

New doubts have been raised concerning the methodology and conclusions of the Persinger experiments.

EDIT: For archival purposes, here's the text of the web article:
Magnetism does not cause paranormal experiences

Dec 7 2004

Previous research has shown that paranormal experiences can be achieved via electromagnetic stimulation of the temple lobe. Now scientists from Uppsala and Lund universities in Sweden are calling into question how the experiments were set up and therefore questioning the results. Their study involving identical magnetic field equipment produced no such relationship.
Previous research has reported that as many as 8 out of 10 individuals have religious or paranormal experiences when their brain's temporal lobe has been exposed to ultra weak, complex magnetic fields. Study participants have experienced a sensed presence of a sentient being, although the participant has been sitting all by him- or herself. Many participants have made religious interpretations of the sensed presence. ...

A conclusion that could be drawn from these findings is that religious experiences can be easily accomplished through electromagnetic stimulation of the temporal lobe. Accordingly, these sensational results have been given wide media attention. Such a magnetic field stimulator can also be purchased on the Internet. However, in the previous studies, it is unclear if participants and experimenters have known about research questions and experimental conditions, which is referred to as experimental “blindness”.

For an experiment to yield credible results, it should be “double-blind”. In this context, this means that neither the participant, nor the experimenter that interacts with him or her, knows whether the participant belongs to the experimental condition (magnetic fields activated) or control condition (no magnetic fields activated). The reason for this methodological rule is that any differences between the groups may otherwise have been caused by some irrelevant factors. For instance, participants in the experimental condition may unconsciously have been treated in such a way that the experiences have been induced for other reasons than the magnetic field exposure.

In a joint project, researchers from Uppsala and Lund University, Sweden, performed a double-blind experiment to test if results from previous studies could be reproduced. Approximately 90 undergraduate students in theology and psychology participated in the study. The magnetic field apparatus utilized was identical to that used in previous studies. Results showed that the magnetic fields did not cause religious or paranormal experiences. However, highly suggestible individuals had paranormal experiences to a larger extent, but this had nothing to do with the magnetic fields.

Paranormal experiences were particularly pronounced among participants with personality traits indicating openness to shifts in consciousness and a new age lifestyle orientation. Hence, our results show that the sensational conclusions about the effects of magnetic field exposure that were drawn in previous studies should be questioned.

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Science will take years to catch up

Yes, the research is commendable, but does not even approach reality.

Where do people usually see ghosts? At their computer? In a room with high voltages and currents? In castles with no electricity?

You see, ghosts are not usually seen in places with high magnetic fields (unless you count ley lines as having higher magnetic fields).

Why don't more people report Out of Body Experiences or paranormal activity during Magnetic Resonance Imaging?

Easy Answer: The magnetic fields have to precisely match the brain wave patterns in some way that is not explained yet.

Harder Answer (for "skeptical" scientists): There is paranormal activity, ESP, and ghosts.

For me, it's actually easier to believe in ghosts, ESP, etc since I have seen some of the direct results. I'm skeptical about anybody's scientific explanation of it, as I am with a scientific explanation of how someone has musical ability or perfect pitch (able to recognize and reproduce exact notes without comparing to an assistive pitch).

I think it's time for me to start the "compare paranormal ability to something else" thread. :)
Re: Science will take years to catch up

HeadNSpace said:
You see, ghosts are not usually seen in places with high magnetic fields (unless you count ley lines as having higher magnetic fields).

Hmm - how do you know such a statement to be actually true? Research into the whole subject is patchy at best, and the theory side of it all is even more disperate.

As for ley lines, they don't have anything to do with energy of any sort, let alone a magnetic one.
Re: Science will take years to catch up

JerryB said:
HeadNSpace said:
You see, ghosts are not usually seen in places with high magnetic fields (unless you count ley lines as having higher magnetic fields).

Hmm - how do you know such a statement to be actually true? Research into the whole subject is patchy at best, and the theory side of it all is even more disperate.

Yep - that is why's work actually applying the theory to real life cases is so interesting:
Link is obsolete. The current link is:
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HeadNSpace wrote:
You see, ghosts are not usually seen in places with high magnetic fields (unless you count ley lines as having higher magnetic fields).

Hmm - how do you know such a statement to be actually true? Research into the whole subject is patchy at best, and the theory side of it all is even more disperate.

Because, the people who I know who have this ability, don't seem to particularly affected by buildings with higher magnetic fields. They seem to get it much more randomly, but much more often near cemeteries, which aren't all that magnetically active. (I tossed in the ley line note because I left open the possibility of the earth's own magnetic field having effects. . . but to me, that's not likely either)

Although, one person I know gets "uncomfortable" near those wind generator farms (areas with those big windmills), but not other energy factories. (like coal, hydro, or nuclear)
Doesn't the connotation arising from a cemetary (i.e. it's symbolism) make it a more likely suspect as a means of suggestion more than anything else? And how do you know that such locales don't have high magnetic fields, that occur naturally?
Jerry B:
And how do you know that such locales don't have high magnetic fields, that occur naturally?

I left open the possibility of the earth's own magnetic field having effects

Although, the earth's magnetic field is rather weak compared to other magnetic fields created by artificial means. :)
People sitting alone in quiet, dimly-lit rooms, how much of the supposed effect was "magnetic field", and how much was just good old-fashioned sensory deprivation?
in quiet places. . . you can hear quieter noises.

dreeness said:
People sitting alone in quiet, dimly-lit rooms, how much of the supposed effect was "magnetic field", and how much was just good old-fashioned sensory deprivation?

I think it's more sensory deprivation. In this condition, there isn't much noise, isn't much light, so your brain has less to deal with, and gives itself more brain power to deal with other things. So, the perception of an almost imperceptible voice is more likely to occur. If the brain is allowed to relax, having less stimuli (internal and external) will allow the brain to be in a more likely position to sense the nearly imperceptible. If you also think too much (say, a skeptic thinking "gosh, this is just silly hogwash") then your brain is still not open to dealing with other stimuli on the edge of perception. Of course, in this situation, it is also more likely for the brain to try to form images and sounds through the person's imagination. ;) . . . perchance to dream. ;)

This can also include magnetic fields, which can cause charged particles in the brain to flow in a particular direction. I am not familiar enough with the brain to say how much particles will move, but really, unless the person is moving along the magnetic field (or across it), charged particles won't move. (which is why current does not flow in a conductor that's just sitting there, but does flow when it moves. This is an extremely small current except at high speeds, and tests of long wires in orbit show that significant charges can accumulate in the right conditions)
Higher states of consciousness


story along same lines:

Mon 3 Jan 2005

Higher states of consciousness



PICTURE THIS: A 43-year-old lady is being treated for temporal lobe epilepsy in a Swiss clinic. In order to pinpoint the aberrant electrical focus in her brain, electrodes have been implanted under the dura - the membrane covering the brain. When she is wakened, the doctors stimulate different areas and watch the results.

When they activate an area called the angular gyrus on the right side, she reports a feeling of "sinking into the bed". This progresses to "falling from a height". With stronger currents she reports she is "floating two metres above the bed" and actually able to see her own body parts lying below her.

She is having an "Out of Body Experience" (OBE), and hers is a classical description.

Some 10 per cent of the population endure these sensations at some time. These can be terrifying, though mostly brief. Associated with epilepsy and migraine, they also occur in normal people, often in states of altered consciousness. They seem to be closely linked to "Near Death Experiences" (NDEs), which take place in extremis, due to an interruption in the supply of oxygen to the brain: or occur when under the influence of drugs - opiates, ketamine, LSD and other hallucinogens - or of sensory deprivation, or brain stimulation of the right angular gyrus as described above.

One of the most celebrated cases was that of the psychologist, Carl Jung. After a heart attack, heavily doped and unconscious, he saw a huge dark stone in space, a meteorite with an entrance into a chamber, where he met a Hindu. Thinking he was about to be inducted into life’s mysteries, his hopes were dashed by his doctor appearing in the guise of a Greek healer, telling him he was not destined to die yet. Jung survived, much impressed with himself, and his visionary life flowered. His major works were then written and he was hailed and worshipped as a guru, much revered by New Agers in the 1960s and by mainstream thinkers.

Jung was neither the first nor the most fascinating case of OBE or NDE. He followed a long line of forceful personalities who used trance-states to mesmerise ordinary folk into thinking they were spiritually special.

Hallucinations and illusions have fascinated humankind from the dawn of our being: that is to say, from the time when our neurological networks had sufficiently evolved to experience and describe them - about 50,000 years ago, give or take. We know this from the evidence of cave art from prehistoric and more modern sites from several continents.

The famous cave paintings of South Africa, for instance, were inspired by memories of images from a state of altered consciousness - induced by plant chemicals, by sleep and sensory deprivation, by isolation, by rhythmic music and dance - by shamans in connection with rituals and religion.

Those paintings have astonishing parallels with rock art from the American continent and from the pre-historic rock art of caves in France and Spain. Many are extraordinarily inaccessible, reached by crawling along narrow, dark, wet passages, through lakes and pot-holes. It was believed that caves were anterooms to a world of spirits - and the cave wall whereon the paintings were made was a thin membrane between the two worlds.

Shamans used their inner revelations to act as intermediaries between the spirits and the people, much as priests do today. They thereby achieved power and status.

The depictions on the cave walls and the content of modern human trance-like states are strikingly similar and reproducible. Vision-questers, by whatever route, feel they leave their bodies, pass through a hole or aperture and along a tunnel or vortex. Early on, they see geometric shapes, lines and zig-zags. Later they encounter scary animals which must be overcome before meeting a spiritual supreme being. Other features common to multiple cultures are emerging from water; flight; a bright and blinding light; and, curiously, bleeding from the nose or mouth. In some cultures, aspiring shamans were obliged to go through painful and dangerous ordeals which really did bring them to the brink of death.

How many parables and allegories have these components? Pilgrim’s Progress, Lord of the Rings, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and many biblical tales all do.

Scientists believe that only humans have "higher consciousness" - which is difficult to define, but consists of a greater understanding of our place in time and space; our temporal nature; communication of abstract concepts through language and so on.

This cerebral conscious level conflicts with primary consciousness - which we share with animals - which has evolved multiple survival techniques, many of which are nothing whatever to do with sophisticated, scientific truth. However, our higher consciousness can go awry - very awry if we help it along by trying to escape its stern logic through vision-questing.

So now we know how, in theory, to tickle our brains into priestly status. It’s a bit of a cultural and sacred climb-down. It could be good for migraine and epilepsy sufferers, though. And it casts a little more light on that mysterious entity, consciousness. But the fundamental question remains: What - and where - is it?

Nature's not often guilty of waste.

The body will sacrifice everything in order to keep the brain alive.

Possibly, 'higher consciousness' is processed by the brain.

So it would seem that 'higher consciousness' and it's alleged components, is considered by Nature to be valuable.

What is described as higher-consciousness may be a programme we have forgotten how to access. The development of writing, for example, may have caused us to lose touch with that element of ourselves. Nevertheless, Nature has not discarded it from within modern man, as evidenced by continuing accounts of spontaneous paranormal experience, including out-of-body experience, precognition, ghosts sightings, visions, etc.

Medically simulated out-of-body experiences exist alongside spontaneous examples. It's possible to start a car-engine by going under the hood with a screwdriver, but it's a pale substitute for a real drive in the country. It's possible to stimulate a person to orgasm under laboratory conditions, but it's a poor substitute for leisurely love-making with a beloved.

In the article cited above, Margaret Cook implies higher-consciousness has been demystified via probing of a patient's brain and causing out of body sensations. Yet there are normally-functioning individuals who have very little physical brain to probe, which suggests higher consciousness does not reside within the physical brain, but is simply processed by the brain.

The Native American Indians, the Australian Aborigines, the Inuit, the people of the Amazon, etc. all sought guidance and knowledge via higher consciousness or, as Margaret Cook describes it, via vision questing. And, contrary to Ms.Cook's stern warning about the process 'going awry', these native people seem to have done a much better job than we of living in harmony with their environment.

I don't know who Ms.Cook is, but it seems to me that she attempts to convince that it's dangerous for us to access our own higher consciousness and that such accessing, and interpretation of the results, should be left to science.

Each to his own, but I'll continue to regard my 'higher consciousness' as mine, as something I was born with, as something my body will fight to protect to the end .... indicating it's valuable, personal and beyond the reach of science.