Magnetic Fields Affecting Brain Activity / Perception / Paranormal Experiences

krobone

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Electromagnetic waves = God?

I'm not sure if this has been covered before, but has anyone heard about Michael Persinger's experiments with EM waves and religious/supernatural feelings?

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/7.11 ... topic_set=

It may seem sacrilegious and presumptuous to reduce God to a few ornery synapses, but modern neuroscience isn't shy about defining our most sacred notions - love, joy, altruism, pity - as nothing more than static from our impressively large cerebrums. Persinger goes one step further. His work practically constitutes a Grand Unified Theory of the Otherworldly: He believes cerebral fritzing is responsible for almost anything one might describe as paranormal - aliens, heavenly apparitions, past-life sensations, near-death experiences, awareness of the soul, you name it.
How far could this go in explaining some accounts of visions/ghosts/aliens, and other Forteana? Do rogue pockets of EMW screw with our minds?

Fascinating stuff, and Fortean in it's own right - what do you think?
 

MrSnowman

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Better still, why not suggest that EMWs are the physical manifestation of the creation force, after all, electromagnetism is what binds the universe together. :?:
 

rynner2

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Re: Electromagnetic waves = God?

Krobone said:
I'm not sure if this has been covered before, but has anyone heard about Michael Persinger's experiments with EM waves and religious/supernatural feelings?
Been mentioned on numerous other threads, you'll find.

My problem with this is that he doesn't seem to explain the origin of the EM fields that create these experiences...

The EM fields could be caused by gods, aliens, UFOs, etc, etc....


In other words, it's an explanation that explains nothing. It's a sort of circular argument - supernatural effects caused by EM fields (sounds like good science), but what actually caused these fields?

In other words, it's an idea that could support a supernatural viewpoint just as strongly as it attempts to disprove it.
 

giantrobot1

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The main problem with ideas (which are interesting) like this, is that there is the logical falacy that just because something could cause something, it must have caused it. Some ghost expereinces might be down to EM, but some may be down to, well, ghosts.

There is also the awful outcome of completely ignoring the subjective repercussions of such experiences, which although maybe based on a false premise, can be very profound. Someone may, for example, experience a bizzarre entity or profoundly different state of consciousness, but any personal meaning this might have is completely negated by a (possibly completely false) statement of 'oh, it was just EM waves making your brain go weird'.

It's another step in the sanitation and devaluation of peak/transpersonal experiences, in my humble opinion.
 

krobone

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I don't know - it seems to me that this is a pretty significant consideration. I don't agree with Persinger's assumption that this explains all supernatural experience in the brain, but if EMW can simulate or trigger that experience it's impossible not to consider it has a bearing on our perception.

I just find it fascinating that our brains can be twigged like that. Maybe our primitive ancestors invented God after exposure to a large, black monolith emitting special electromagnetic waves... :)
 
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I read a book titled 'Phantoms in the brain' by Dr VS Ramachandrin.
It talks about lot of things but one bit is all about temporal lobe epilepsy and how this relates to people who have religous ecstacies, and get visitations from angels and saints.
Apparently religion is hardwired into the brain regardless of which God you think is better, and the area it is situated in seems to be the temporal lobes. People who are subject to epilepsy in that part of the brain seem to have their religous epiphanies and celestial visitations while in the epileptic state.
Interesting as this is I still don't completely believe that all supernatural disturbances can be attributed to whacko brain chemistry.
 

CrazyRedHead

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I read an interesting book quite some time ago - The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by J. Jaynes.

The author hypothesizes that human consciousness is what it is because our brains are bicameral - having 2 halves - and that mystic visions may be the result of the 2 halves talking to each other.

It also goes in to the influence of the temporal lobe in spiritual experiences, but I can't remember much of it. My left half should remind my right self to go get a new copy!

Link
 

Graylien

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It certainly deserves further research. However, Persinger's case would be much stronger if everyone who sat in his chair had a vivid OBE/alien abduction/visionary experience. However, most of the accounts I have read from people who have tried the experiment (including the journalist who wrote the Wired article and CNN reporter Jay Ingram), merely report feeling "spaced out" with perhaps a vague awareness of a "presence".

These kinds of feelings are also reported by people who simply spend time in sensory deprivation tanks (without the benefit of added electrodes) and even by people learning to meditate.

Arch-sceptic Susan Blackmore had a slightly more exciting time in the chair. (see: http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/journalism/ns94.html) She reported being "yanked" by unseen hands, then feeling "determinedly clear-minded anger" followed by "a sudden fit of fear". Dramatic though this may have been, it falls far short of being an alien abduction experience (despite Blackmores rather silly assertion that "If someone told me an alien was responsible and invited me to join an abductees’ support group, I might well prefer to believe the idea; rather than accept I was going mad").

As Jenny Randles says "While Persinger has offered an interesting theory matched by some experimental results, nothing bridges the gulf between people feeling odd and having a light ASC (Altered State of Consciousness) when subjected to EM radiation and witnesses having full blown abductions" (http://www.anomalist.com/commentaries/abductions.html)
 

TheQuixote

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Krobone, I've merged your thread as you can no doubt tell.

As an aside new members are more than welcome to re-cover *old ground*. I have also found that in most cases where a topic has apparently already been in *discussion*, new members more often than not bring in ideas and perspectives that haven't already been covered. :)

--------------

Back to topic.

This thread caught my imagination a while ago, Ghosts or bad wiring? Parascience, a British group that investigates the paranormal and their take re: *ghostly* activity:

[..]the 18-strong Parascience group had been working on the basis that in places, where there is an unusually high concentration of electricity, there will be an increase of paranormal goings-on.

In the farm, the electro-magnetic radiation was measured at more than 50 times the average domestic rate. This was traced to mains electricity cables tied to the gutter-boarding.
 
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Bannik

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Ahh. The weird effects EMWs has on the brain is one of my favorite subjects on this MB. Thanks for bringing it back up, Krobone.

If there is a God, I'm sure he finds the discussions and debates this subject elicits fascinating and amusing. I know the "God" within my brain, sure does!
 

dreeness

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And as melf said earlier, why aren't power stations overrun with ghosts? Why aren't people in any urban industrial environment constantly afflicted with all kinds of EM-induced mystical experiences. Try walking through a city with an ordinary pocket compass sometime, the needle goes crazy around any electrical machinery, spins like a top on a streetcar or subway. We live in a constant EM blizzard, why aren't we all hallucinating all the time?
 

krobone

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dreeness said:
And as melf said earlier, why aren't power stations overrun with ghosts? Why aren't people in any urban industrial environment constantly afflicted with all kinds of EM-induced mystical experiences. Try walking through a city with an ordinary pocket compass sometime, the needle goes crazy around any electrical machinery, spins like a top on a streetcar or subway. We live in a constant EM blizzard, why aren't we all hallucinating all the time?
Well, I would assume a lot depends on the individual, as well as enviornmental considerations. Also, apparently specific patterns are needed to replicate certain phenomena:

Some of the bursts - which Persinger more precisely calls "a series of complex repetitive patterns whose frequency is modified variably over time" - have generated their intended effects with great regularity, the way aspirin causes pain relief. Persinger has started naming them and is creating a sort of EM pharmacological dictionary. The pattern that stimulates a sensed presence is called the Thomas Pulse, named for Persinger's colleague Alex Thomas, who developed it. There's another one called Burst X, which reproduces what Persinger describes as a sensation of "relaxation and pleasantness."
I would like to see some research done on how EMW affects people 'in the field'. Is there a specific type of wave that works more effectively than others? How long do you need to be exposed? What if there's a lot of interference in the background? etc.
 

markbellis

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It sounds more like there was some kind of vibration in the ground - perhaps the pylons were vibrating from the wind or the gas turbines from the power station was running rough.

There's been some discussion over whether magnetic stimulation of the brain really can cause hallucinations or other altered states of consciousness - a Swedish team was unable to repeat Dr. Michael Persinger's results -

bioedonline.org/news/news.cfm?art=1424 -
Link is dead. The MIA article can be accessed via the Wayback Machine:
https://web.archive.org/web/2013120.../electrical-brainstorms-busted-source-ghosts/
OR
Via its original source (Nature):
https://www.nature.com/articles/news041206-10


Electromagnetism can induce sounds in people's heads - probably due to localized heating of tissue though - from WHO's website:

Pulsed RF fields: Exposure to very intense pulsed RF fields, similar to those used by radar systems, has been reported to suppress the startle response and evoke body movements in conscious mice. In addition, people with normal hearing have perceived pulse RF fields with frequencies between about 200 MHz and 6.5 GHz. This is called the microwave hearing effect. The sound has been variously described as a buzzing, clicking, hissing or popping sound, depending on the RF pulsing characteristics. Prolonged or repeated exposure may be stressful and should be avoided where possible.
http://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications ... index.html

Power lines can induce glowing in florescent tubes - but so can rubbing them.
The noise at the zoo does sound a lot like the current arcing across a gap, but a power grid should not be producing enough RF for hearing effects, especially since that seems to require a directional pulsed signal like a radar beam.
 

ramonmercado

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Experts are poles apart on whether or not this works.

Magnets Can Alter Moral Judgement By Changing Brain Activity
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/184156.php

US scientists have discovered that appyling a magnetic field to a particular place on the scalp can alter people's moral judgement by interfering with activity in the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) of the brain. They said their finding helps us better understand how the brain constructs morality.

You can read about the study, led by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the 29 March online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS. The research was led by Dr Rebecca Saxe, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT.

Lead author Dr Liane Young, a postdoctoral associate in Saxe's department, told the media that because people are normally very confident and consistent in making moral judgements, it comes as surprise to learn that their ability to do so can altered like this.

"You think of morality as being a really high-level behavior. To be able to apply (a magnetic field) to a specific brain region and change people's moral judgments is really astonishing," said Young in a statement.

She said the study reveals "striking evidence" that the right TPJ, which sits on the surface of the brain, above and behind the right ear, plays a crucial role in making moral judgements.

When we make moral judgements about other people we often need to infer their intentions. For instance, when a hunter on a hunting trip shoots a fellow hunter, did he mistake his colleague for prey, or was he secretly jealous?

This ability has been termed "theory of mind", that is the ability to attribute mental states such as beliefs, intentions, and other qualities to oneself and others, and also to understand that other people's mental states can be different to one's own.

Ten years ago Saxe identified that the TPJ played a role in theory of mind and wrote about it in her PhD thesis in 2003. Since then she has been using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show that the right TPJ is active when people are asked to make moral judgements that require them to think about the intentions of others.

Other studies have also shown that the TPJ is highly active when we think about other people's intentions, their beliefs and their thoughts.

For this study, Saxe, Young and colleagues wanted to investigate what might happen if they could actually disrupt activity in the right TPJ.

In this case, instead of the usual fMRI, they did two sets of experiments where they used a non-invasive method called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to apply a magnetic field to a small area of the skull (on the scalp) to create weak electric currents that stop nearby brain cells from firing normally for a while.

They found that this was enough to impair subjects' ability to make moral judgments that involve an understanding of other people's intentions: as in for example, a failed murder attempt.

In the first set of "offline stimulation" experiments, they exposed volunteers to the TMS method for 25 minutes and then asked them to take a test where they read about several scenarios and then had to judge the actions of the characters portrayed on a scale of one to seven (from "absolutely forbidden" to "absolutely permissible").

For example, for one scenario they were asked to judge how permissible would it be for a man to allow his girlfriend to walk across a bridge he knew to be unsafe, even if she does eventually cross it safely. In such a scenario, judging the man solely on the outcome would hold him blameless, even though he apparently intended harm.

In the second set of "online stimulation" experiments, the volunteers underwent a 500-millisecond burst of TMS at the point when they were asked to make a moral judgement.

In both experiments, Saxe, Young and colleagues found that disrupting the right TPJ resulted in volunteers being more likely to judge failed attempts to harm as morally permissible.

They suggested this was because they were relying more on information about the outcome than inference on intention, since the process that normally helped them get information on intention was disrupted by the electrical current from the TMS.

"It doesn't completely reverse people's moral judgments, it just biases them," explained Saxe.

The researchers also found that when they applied TMS to a brain region near the right TPJ , the volunteers' judgments were nearly identical to those of volunteers who received no TMS at all.

They concluded that:

"Relative to TMS to a control site, TMS to the RTPJ caused participants to judge attempted harms as less morally forbidden and more morally permissible. Thus, interfering with activity in the RTPJ disrupts the capacity to use mental states in moral judgment, especially in the case of attempted harms."

When we judge other people, understanding their intentions is just one aspect of what we take into account. We also assess things like their previous record, what we understand about their desires, and what constraints they might be under. We are also guided by our own ideas about loyalty, fairness and integrity, said Saxe.

Moral judgement is not a single process, even though it might feel like it, explained Saxe, who described it as more a mixture of "competing and conflicting judgments, all of which get jumbled into what we call moral judgment".

Dr Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, professor of philosophy at Duke University, who was not involved in this research, said that by going beyond fMRI, the study marks a major step forward for the field of moral neuroscience:

"Recent fMRI studies of moral judgment find fascinating correlations, but Young et al usher in a new era by moving beyond correlation to causation," said Sinnott-Armstrong.

The National Center for Research Resources, the MIND Institute, the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, the Simons Foundation and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation funded the study.

"Disruption of the right temporoparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces the role of beliefs in moral judgments."
Liane Young, Joan Albert Camprodon, Marc Hauser, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, and Rebecca Saxe
PNAS, published online ahead of print 29 March 2010
DOI:10.1073/pnas.0914826107

Sources: MIT, Wikipedia.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD
 

escargot

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Hmmm, look at the date!
 

EnolaGaia

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