Reply to “Neuroscience for the Soul”.

Shiva_God_HelmetPersinger has published a reply to a critical article in a British “pop” psychology magazine (The Psychologist) entitled “Neuroscience for the Soul”.  This article perpetuates a few mistaken notions about the God Helmet, as well as some of Persinger’s theories.

For example, Persinger does not believe that spiritual and religious experiences are seizural events in the temporal lobes, and he also rejects the idea that religious belief is an epileptic phenomena.

Persinger’s God Helmet results are not due to suggestion, and they do use placebo controls and double-blind conditions.

Richard Dawkins, the flagship author and semi-official spokesman for the skeptical movement, had been drinking before his God Helmet Session, and that’s why he felt so few effects.

The low-intensity magnetic fields used with the God Helmet are strong enough to create striking effects, and this link will take you to a page where you can see that lots of other researchers have seen measurable effects using low-powered magnetic fields on the brain.

Skeptics insist that Persinger’s work with paranormal phenomena (correlating it with geomagnetic measures) has not been replicated.  However, it simply isn’t true.

In spite of claims to the contrary, there has been a replication of a God Helmet experiment, as well as replication of other work by M.A. Persinger.

The “Haunted Room” experiment (intended to try to create a synthetic haunted environment) was not a test of any of Persinger’s concepts, in spite of claims to the contrary.  The “haunted room” experiment used whole-body stimulation (to try to create an artificial “haunted Room”), while Persinger’s experiments stimulated only the head, and sometimes just one side of it.  You can’t stimulate only the right side of the head using an entire room as the stimulator.

Most of the criticisms of Persinger’s theories and ideas resolve into “straw man” arguments.  These are arguments that give the impression of criticizing a person’s argument, while actually challenging a position that they never advanced.  It creates the illusion of having falsified an opponent’s proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition (i.e. “stand up a straw man”) and then to dispute the false argument (“knock down a straw man”) instead of the original proposition.  Other straw man arguments are based on substituting a critic’s interpretation of a belief for the belief itself.

There are many other points discussed in Persinger’s published reply, making it worth reading for anyone interested in neurotheology and the many debates that have appeared over the years.  You can read it here.

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Ten Blogs by Dr. Michael A. Persinger

Blogs by Dr. Michael A. Persinger.

The God Helmet’s Weak Fields are Sufficient to Influence Brain Activity.

We do not allow suggestion or Suggestibility to Influence our Lab Results.

Our results can’t be attributed to suggestion.

God Helmet (and many other of our) results have been replicated.

God Helmet Experiments use Blind Protocols and Placebo Controls.

Replications of our work on Geomagnetism and Paranormal Phenomena.

The Tectonic Strain Theory and French’s “Haunted Room” Experiment.

Richard Dawkins – Alcohol and the God Helmet don’t mix.

My theories are not based on religiousness in epileptics.

Religious belief is not an epileptic phenomenon.

Shortlink to this page:

http://wp.me/p2FgAb-bo

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The God Helmet’s Weak Fields are Sufficient to Influence Brain Activity – A Blog By Dr. M. A. Persinger

The mistaken claims that our magnetic fields can’t affect the brain ignore the evidence – a Blog by Dr. Michael Persinger.

Question: Is there any truth to the claim that your magnetic fields cannot influence the brain?

A schematic diagram of the testing apparatus for the experiment. Two wooden pine boards or duct metal were periodically inserted between the SAM-360 device and the power meter. In one condition physiological saline was placed adjacent to the power meter.

A schematic diagram of the testing apparatus for the experiment. Two wooden pine boards or duct metal were periodically inserted between the SAM-360 (vis. God Helmet) device and the power meter. In one condition physiological saline was placed adjacent to the power meter.

Answer: No.  Recently, a colleague and I performed an experiment using three materials, each three times as dense and thick as the human skull (wood, saline solution or duct metal) to demonstrate that there is no validity to claims that weak, time-varying magnetic fields applied in this manner are eliminated or significantly attenuated (weakened) by the human skull.  The result was straightforward: The fields were not attenuated (weakened) in any way.

Persinger, Michael A., and Kevin S. Saroka. “Minimum Attenuation of Physiologically-Patterned, 1 µTesla Magnetic Fields through Simulated Skull and Cerebral Space.” Journal of Electromagnetic Analysis and Applications 5.04 (2013): 151. (See evidence)

The contention that magnetic fields cannot influence the brain is based on a fallacious interpretation of TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), which uses magnetic fields strong enough to depolarize neurons.  Typically, these fields are a million times stronger than the kind that surround stereo headphones.  This “brute force” approach has several clinical applications.  Critics claim that neural stimulation employing fields with lower strengths can’t have any effect.  A brief look at the applicable laws of physics and laboratory evidence shows us that this simply isn’t the case.

It should be understood that any contention that magnetic fields cannot penetrate the head are contrary to the laws of physics, which tell us that the head cannot act as a magnetic insulator, because these same laws exclude the existence of magnetic insulation.  This has to do with one of Maxwell’s Equations (del dot B = 0).  All magnetic field lines must terminate on the opposite pole. Because of this, there is no way to stop all of them; they must all find a way to return the magnetic field lines back to an opposite pole.

This is how it is explained in the theories of physics.  When we examine the question empirically, we find that there is a substantial body of evidence showing that weak magnetic fields do penetrate the head, and that they can also influence brain activity.  Let me address how this happens.

In classical physics, a changing magnetic field produces an electric field and an electric current.  The amount of current depends upon the conductivity of the substance, whether its a copper wire or our brain tissues. That’s how TMS works.  However, there is also magnetic energy.

When we apply our magnetic fields, with strengths a million times less than TMS, the energy within the volume of the person’s brain is about a nanoJoule (one billionth of a Joule) per second.  When we average this out over the about 100 billion neurons (and their support cells) in the human brain, that works out to about 10^-20 Joules per cell each second. The number is a decimal point followed by 19 zeros and then a 1. This may seem very, very small.   Actually, it matches the amount of energy involved when a single nerve cell produces one action potential that contributes to our present-time subjective experience. Moreover, a change in the activity of one neuron can alter the state of the entire brain (Cheng-Yu, 2009) This small quantity of energy is also the same as the amount that binds chemicals to cells through receptors.

However, the values can be enhanced.  Our brains are richly populated with crystalline magnetite, containing 5 million such crystals per gram (Kirschvink, 1992 A).  They appear in chains (“magnetosomes”).  In the vernacular, our fields work because these chained crystals move in response, and because the information encoded in their movement (coming from our signals); their “patterns”, interacts with the magnetic fields that appear as a consequence of the brain’s electrical activity, a “field to field” effect.  Imagine the sun has a storm, making it’s magnetic field pulse slowly.  Here, on the earth, we would have geomagnetic storms, as pulses from the sun’s stormy field are added to that of our planet. We have found the same field that produced the sensed presence works by very specific channels within membranes that allow calcium to enter the cell (Buckner et al, 2015). The timing of the point durations that compose the specific field pattern must be precise or there is no effect.

One of the pioneers in biological aspects of magnetic fields, Joseph Kirshvink (1992 B) wrote:  “A simple calculation shows that magnetosomes [chains of magnetic particles] moving in response to earth-strength ELF fields are capable of opening trans-membrane ion channels, in a fashion similar to those predicted by ionic resonance models. Hence, the presence of trace levels of biogenic [produced or brought about by living organisms] magnetite in virtually all human tissues examined suggests that similar biophysical processes may explain a variety of weak field ELF bioeffects”.

The magnetic fields that surround stereo headphones are in the same range, but are not embedded with neural information.

The reader can see 10 examples of magnetic stimulation studies below.  Only independent studies are listed.  The magnetic stimulation reported in them  run from a quarter of the field strengths used in TMS (1 Tesla) to less than a millionth of that value.  Each listing displays:

  • The unit of magnetic field measurement used in the research publications.
  • The equivalent field strength in milligauss (mG), so that the same unit of measurement can be seen for all the cited studies.
  • The percent of the fields employed in TMS.
  • A brief summary of each result.
  • A link to the publication.

These are displayed below in descending order of field strength, and they range from one quarter (25%)  to five ten-billionths (5 x 10 -13%) of the field strength used in TMS.


Wieraszko (2000) used a 2.5 milliTesla  field (= 25,000 mG, which equals 0.25% of TMS) to exert effects on spikes from hippocampal slices in vitro:

Wieraszko, A. “Dantrolene modulates the influence of steady magnetic fields on hippocampal evoked potentials in vitro.” Bioelectromagnetics 21.3 (2000): 175-182.  (See evidence)


Dobson, Jon, et al. (2000) used a 1.8 milliTesla  field (= 18,000 mG, or  0.18% of the fields strengths used in TMS) to enhanced  and suppress interictal epileptiform activity in temporal lobe epileptics.

Dobson, Jon, et al. “Changes in paroxysmal brainwave patterns of epileptics by weak‐field magnetic stimulation.” Bioelectromagnetics 21.2 (2000): 94-99. (See evidence)


Thomas (et al.), 2007 used a 400 microTesla magnetic field (=4,000 mG which equals 0.04% of the fields used in TMS)  for  pain reduction in patients with fibromyalgia.

Thomas, Alex W., (et al.) “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial using a low-frequency magnetic field in the treatment of musculoskeletal chronic pain.” Pain Research & Management: The Journal of the Canadian Pain Society 12.4 (2007): 249. (See evidence)


Huesser, (et al.) 1997 used a 0.1 microTesla magnetic field (= 1000 mG , which equals 0.01% of the fields used in TMS) to cause changes in EEG parameters.

Heusser, Karsten, Dieter Tellschaft, and Franz Thoss. “Influence of an alternating 3 Hz magnetic field with an induction of 0.1 microTesla on chosen parameters of the human occipital EEG.” Neuroscience letters 239.2 (1997): 57-60. (See evidence)


Marino (et al., 2004) used a  1 Gauss magnetic field (= 1000 mG, which equals  0.01% of the fields used in TMS) to cause changes in EEG readings  during presentation of Magnetic fields

Marino, Andrew A., et al. “Effect of low-frequency magnetic fields on brain electrical activity in human subjects.” Clinical Neurophysiology 115.5 (2004): 1195-1201. (See evidence)


Carrubba et al., (2008) used a  2 Gauss magnetic field (= 2000 mG, which equals 0.02% of the field strengths used in TMS) to elicit  magnetosensory evoked potentials.

Carrubba, Simona, et al. “Magnetosensory evoked potentials: consistent nonlinear phenomena.” Neuroscience research 60.1 (2008): 95-105. (See evidence)

Note: The same researcher also found EEG activation in response to magnetic fields with 1 Gauss field strengths (0.01% of the field strengths used in TMS. (See evidence).


Brendel et al., (2000) used an  86 microTesla magnetic field (= 860 mG or  0.0086% of the field strengths used in TMS) to elicit melatonin suppression following in vitro pineal gland exposure to magnetic fields.

Brendel, H., M. Niehaus, and A. Lerchl. “Direct suppressive effects of weak magnetic fields (50 Hz and 162/3 Hz) on melatonin synthesis in the pineal gland of Djungarian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus).” Journal of pineal research 29.4 (2000): 228-233. (See evidence)


Bell et al. (2007) used a  0.78 Gauss magnetic field  (=780 mG or 0.0078% of the fields used in TMS) to induce increased EEG activity at two or more frequencies.

Bell, Glenn B., Andrew A. Marino, and Andrew L. Chesson. “Alterations in brain electrical activity caused by magnetic fields: detecting the detection process.”Electroencephalography and clinical Neurophysiology 83.6 (1992): 389-397. (See Evidence)


Vorobyov, et al., (1998) used a  20.9 microTesla magnetic field  (=209 mG or  0.0029% of  the field strengths used in TMS) to influence  EEG differences in rats.

Vorobyov, Vasily Vasilievitch, et al. “Weak combined magnetic field affects basic and morphine-induced rat’s EEG.” Brain research 781.1 (1998): 182-187. (See evidence | See more evidence (2009)).


Tinoco & Ortiz (2014) used a 1 microTesla  magnetic field  (=10 mG  or 0.0001% of the fields strengths used in TMS) to replicate one of Persinger’s published God Helmet effects.

Tinoca, Carlos A., and João PL Ortiz. “Magnetic Stimulation of the Temporal Cortex: A Partial “God Helmet” Replication Study.” Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research 5.3 (2014).  (See evidence)


Jacobson (1994) used a 5 picoTesla magnetic field (= 0.00005 mG or  0.000000000005% of the field strengths used in TMS), and observed a  direct correlation of melatonin production with magnetic field stimulation.

Jacobson, J. I. “Pineal-hypothalamic tract mediation of picoTesla magnetic fields in the treatment of neurological disorders.” Panminerva medica 36.4 (1994): 201-205.  (See evidence)


Sandyk, (1999) “picoTesla range” used 500 picoTesla (=0.005 milligauss or 0.00000000005% of the field strengths used in TMS) magnetic fields improve olfactory function in Parkinson’s disease.

Sandyk, Reuven. “Treatment with AC pulsed electromagnetic fields improves olfactory function in Parkinson’s disease.” International journal of neuroscience97.3-4 (1999): 225-233.  (See evidence)

NOTE: Sandyk has published scores of case histories documenting the effects of picoTesla range magnetic fields on humans, including MS and Parkinson’s (publications).

I hope this blog will clarify that the magnetic fields we utilize in the God Helmet can indeed affect brain activity, and that claims to the contrary contradict the laws of physics and are made without examination of the evidence.

Dr. Michael A. Persinger
Full Professor
Behavioural Neuroscience, Biomolecular Sciences and Human Studies
Departments of Psychology and Biology
Laurentian University,
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada P3E 2C6
Email: mpersinger@laurentian.ca and drpersinger@neurocog.ca
NOTE: This blog is hosted by a colleague.

REFERENCES

Cheng-yu, T. Li, Mu-ming Poo, and Yang Dan. “Burst spiking of a single cortical neuron modifies global brain state.” Science 324.5927 (2009): 643-646.

Kirschivink, Joseph L., Kobayashi-Kisshvink, Atsuko & Woodford, Barbera J. “Magnetite biomineralization in the Human Brain”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 1992 (A), 89 7683-7687

Kirschvink, Joseph L., et al. “Magnetite in human tissues: a mechanism for the biological effects of weak ELF magnetic fields.” Bioelectromagnetics 13.S1 1992 (B): 101-113.

Buckner CA, Buckner AL, Koren SA, Persinger MA, Lafrenie RM (2015) Inhibition of Cancer Cell Growth by Exposure to a Specific Time-Varying Electromagnetic Field Involves T-Type Calcium Channels. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0124136. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124136

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We Do Not Allow Suggestion or Suggestibility to Influence our Lab Results. – A Blog by Dr. M.A. Persinger

We take every measure to ensure that our subjects are not exposed to suggestions.

We take every measure to ensure that our subjects are not exposed to suggestions.

Our laboratory results are not due to suggestion or suggestibility – A blog by Dr. Michael A. Persinger.

We apply several procedures to guarantee that our subjects are not exposed to suggestions, have no expectations, so that our results are not influenced by subject suggestibility.

These procedures and analytical methods rule out suggestion as an explanation for the effects we have observed in our experiments.

Question: How do you ensure that subjects are not inadvertently given suggestions as to the purpose of your experiments and how do you respond to the claim that your results are due to suggestibility?

Human beings are remarkably sensitive to subtle cues in their environment. For example, specific areas of the human brain respond to alterations in structures of sentences while a person is reading even though the person is not “aware” of the change in sentence structure (Bern, 1997).

Thirty years ago when we were interested in the “subjective narrative” of people sitting in the dark in a quiet chamber we found that the music, e.g., a Gregorian chant or the bars from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, compared to sitting in silence, affected the content of the “spontaneous” themes.  Sitting in silent darkness without previously hearing any music generated more “death” images, the pre-darkness listening to Gregorian chants was associated with more religious images and the movie score was associated with space themes.  We could influence what the subjects thought about by “priming” them with music with clear connotations.

Context is also important (Persinger, 1989; 1992). In one of our placebo-controlled experiments, we applied our magnetic signals, and immediately afterwards, the subjects listened to an ambiguous narrative (story) about a young boy who had night time anomalous experiences (“The Billy Story”) .  These were epileptic in origin, although this was never stated.  After the story and the stimulation was complete, we asked to subjects to listen to a brief story about either alien abduction or early sexual abuse.  The story was provided without any explanation.  The subjects were then asked to interpret the story about the boy’s night time experiences both immediately and a few days after.  We found that the subjects who heard the story about early sexual abuse interpreted the “Billy” story as one of sexual abuse, and the subjects who heard the story about alien abductions interpreted it as being about an interaction with aliens.   (Dittburner and Persinger, 1993; O’Gorman and Persinger, 1998). In this way, we verified how easily pseudomemories or false memories can be produced (Persinger, 1992; Healey and Persinger, 2001).

My critics who attribute God Helmet experiences to suggestibility have never directly tested this hypothesis. We have tested this potential confounding effect by psychometric inferences which are highly correlated with hypnotizability, such as the Wilson-Barber Imaginings Scale. We also have several experiments where we measured hypnotizibility directly with the Spiegel and Spiegel scale where the experimenter interacts with the subject directly (Ross and Persinger, 1987). The latter was administered after the exit questionnaire containing 20 questions about their experiences.

Interestingly, the last item in this questionnaire asks if the red light changed intensity even though for most studies there was no red light. Suggestible or highly hypnotizable individuals frequently respond “yes” to this item. However, even when the many suggestibility measures were taken into account during the statistical analyses, the sensed presence reports still occurred primarily when the “God Experience” protocol was used.

Dr. Linda St-Pierre and I explained this in our 2006 paper in the International Journal of Neuroscience, but online skeptics seem not to have read it.   Finally I reiterate that the volunteers do not know if they will receive a magnetic field or which field it might be and they are always told they are participating in a relaxation study.

We use questionnaires with our student subjects.  The questionnaires are applied at least six weeks before these students participate, and these are only some of the questionnaires they students fill out as they study psychological data gathering.  This gives them first hand experience with methods of gathering psychological data.  They have no idea that the questions have anything to do with the experiment.  The data are gathered under “blind” conditions.

We do not decorate our lab with any spiritual or religious imagery, and the researchers don’t discuss the specifics of the experiment with subjects until after all data have been gathered.

One experiment made it clear that our effects were not coming from suggestion.  After experimenting for several years with a burst-firing pattern, and seeing repeated results telling us that it generated higher pleasantness ratings when applied over the left hemisphere (see example; Persinger & Healey, 2002), we began to investigate another signal, derived from hippocampal tissues during long-term potentiation.  In that case, and a few since, we have seen that this signal is more pleasant over the right hemisphere (Persinger, et al., 1994).  If our effects were due to suggestion, these results should have been the same in all cases, but they weren’t.

I hope this blog clarifies that we are aware of experimental factors that allow suggestions and suggestibility to confound experimental results, and that we take all necessary steps to prevent their occurrence.

Dr. Michael A. Persinger
Full Professor
Behavioural Neuroscience, Biomolecular Sciences and Human Studies
Departments of Psychology and Biology
Laurentian University,
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada P3E 2C6
Email: mpersinger@laurentian.ca and drpersinger@neurocog.ca
NOTE: This blog is hosted by a colleague.

 


 

REFERENCES:

Berns, Gregory S., Jonathan D. Cohen, and Mark A. Mintun. “Brain regions responsive to novelty in the absence of awareness.” Science 276.5316 (1997): 1272-1275.

Dittburner, T.-L. and Persinger, M. A. (1993). Intensity of amnesia during hypnosis is positively correlated with estimated prevalence of sexual abuse and alien abductions: implications for false memory syndrome. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 77, 895-898.

Healey, F. and Persinger, M. A. (2001). Experimental production of illusory (false) memories in reconstructions of narratives: effect size and potential mediation by right hemispheric stimulation from complex, weak magnetic fields. International Journal of Neuroscience, 106, 195-207.

O’Gorman, K. A. and Persinger, M. A. (1998). Hypnotic Induction profiles, contextual innuendo and delayed intrusion errors for a narrative: searching for mediating variables. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 87, 587-593.

Persinger, M. A. (1989). Geophysical variables and behavior: LV. Predicting the details of visitor experiences and the personality of experients. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 68, 55-65.

Persinger, M. A. (1992). Neuropsychological profiles of adults who report “suddenly remembering” of early childhood memories: implications for claims of sexual abuse and alien visitations/abduction experiences. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 75, 259-266.

Persinger, M. A. (1996). Subjective pseudocyesis in normal woman who exhibit enhanced imaginings and elevated indicators of electrical lability within the temporal lobes: implications for the “Missing Embryo Syndrome”. Social Behavior and Personality, 24, 101-112.

Ross, J. and Persinger, M. A. (1987). Positive correlations between temporal lobe signs and hypnosis induction profiles: a replication. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 64, 828-830.

St-Pierre, L. S. and Persinger, M. A. (2006). Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence is predicted by specific patterns of applied magnetic fields not suggestibility: re-analysis of 19 experiments. International Journal of Neuroscience, 116, 1-8.

Spiegel, H. and Spiegel, D. (1978). Trance and treatment: clinical uses of hypnosis. New York: Basic Books.

Persinger, Michael A., and Faye Healey. “Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence: Possible intercalation between the hemispheres induced by complex magnetic fields.” The Journal of nervous and mental disease 190.8 (2002): 533-541.

Persinger, Michael A., Pauline M. Richards, and Stanley A. Koren. “Differential ratings of pleasantness following right and left hemispheric application of low energy magnetic fields that stimulate long-term potentiation.” International journal of neuroscience 79.3-4 (1994): 191-197.

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Our results can’t be attributed to suggestion. – A blog By Dr. Michael Persinger

Shiva_God_Helmet

The results of our experiments cannot be attributed to experimenter suggestion or subject suggestibility. – A Blog by Dr. Michael Persinger.

Question: What results have you had that cannot be explained by suggestion?

Answer: We have seen many effects that cannot be explained by suggestion or suggestibility.  These have been done with people, rats, worms and living cells maintained (cultured) in petri dishes.

One very clear illustration is seen in our study that found that our magnetic field stimulation actually enhanced hypnotizability (Tiller, 1994) with a pulsed field, which we replicated two years later (Healey, 1996) with a burst-firing pattern.    We took measures of the suggestibility of each subject using an established instrument for its measurement as part of these experiments (Spiegel, 1978).  Altering suggestibility through suggestion is a highly improbable scenario, so the results of these studies ruled it out as an explanation for our magnetic stimulation effects in humans approximately twenty years ago.

For many of our experiments that created the sensed presence, we measured suggestibility directly using a well-established protocol (Spiegel, 1978).  We found that analyzing the data for the person’s hypnotizability score did not reduce the intensity of the sensed presence produced by the specific magnetic field pattern. The key paper was called “Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence is predicted by specific patterns of applied magnetic fields not by suggestibility: re-analysis of 19 experiments”. It was published in the International Journal of Neuroscience (St-Pierre, LS, 2006).

We have observed clinical effects that cannot be explained by suggestion. For example, Baker-Price (1996) found differential changes in the EEG patterns of patients who had sustained head injuries, depending upon the specific neural location where the field was applied.  The experiment also found a significant improvement of depression and a reduction of phobias.  We replicated this experiment in 2003 (Baker-Price, 2003), with very similar results and follow-up six weeks after the experiment was completed.  Tsang et al (2009) showed clearly with relatively crude psychometric measurements that infer emotional profiles that different patterned fields produced different mood states. Attributing these results to patient suggestibility leads inevitably to the conclusion that  depression can be treated through suggestion, a conclusion unsupported by any evidence nor predicted by any hypotheses.

We have also shown clear changes in delta and theta power over the temporal lobes during magnetic field stimulation (and more accurate brain wave measures, such as QEEG),  (Corradini et al  2013), using a completely separate method for producing the signals.  Eliciting the same effects with both different hardware and software also allows confirmation that our results that cannot be attributed to hardware artifacts.

However, the most powerful demonstration that the electromagnetic effects are not due to suggestion is the effect upon cells. We have found in controlled studies that the same pattern using in our sensed presence experiments slows the rate of a variety of different types of cancer cells in cultures (Hu, et al., 2010, Bruckner, 2015). These fields inhibited only cancer cell growth but did not retard the growth of normal cells.  We have found this same field that produced the sensed presence works by very specific channels within membranes that allow calcium to enter the cell (Buckner et al, 2015). The timing of the point durations that compose the specific field pattern must be precise or there is no effect.

Our studies using lab rats cannot be attributed to suggestion as rats cannot be said to be “suggestible”.

Nevertheless, we carry out blind analysis of rat brain sections in our rat studies, in which the investigator does not know which brain regions may have been affected by a procedure or the magnitude of the differences predicted between the rat brains exposed to the magnetic fields and those which were not (Fournier, 2012). In rat studies investigating differences in rat behavior following stimulation with magnetic signals, the experimenter observing their behavior is kept blind to the experimental condition (Whissell, 2007, McKay, 2004, Bureau, 1994, Babik, 1992).  Our examination of microscope slides from rat subjects and controls is also done under blind conditions (Cook, 1999). We have also carried out similar procedures with worms (planarium – Dugesia sp.) (Mulligan, 2012).

The false impression that our effects come from suggestibility of our experimental participants originates from  a paper published by Granqvist et al..  That publication reported an incorrectly configured experiment in which our neural stimulation signals were run at too high a velocity (their computer wasn’t calibrated to the software) and for too short a time (only ten minutes instead of the twenty we normally use as the minimum stimulation).   There were other issues, but these were the most significant.  Granqvist et al explained the difference between our results and theirs by the speculation that our results were due to suggestibility in our subjects. Note that Granqvist et al did not actually measure their subject’s suggestibility.   Their explanation is entirely speculative and ultimately incorrect.

I hope this blog will clarify that we are fully aware of the need to prevent experimenter suggestions and that our results are not due to to suggestibility in our subjects.

Dr. Michael A. Persinger
Full Professor
Behavioural Neuroscience, Biomolecular Sciences and Human Studies
Departments of Psychology and Biology
Laurentian University,
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada P3E 2C6
Email: mpersinger@laurentian.ca and drpersinger@neurocog.ca
NOTE: This blog is hosted by a colleague.

 


REFERENCES

Tiller, S. G., and Michael A. Persinger. “Enhanced hypnotizability by cerebrally applied magnetic fields depends upon the order of hemispheric presentation: An anistropic effect.” International journal of neuroscience 79.3-4 (1994): 157-163.

Healey, Faye, Michael A. Persinger, and S. A. Koren. “Enhanced hypnotic suggestibility following application of burst-firing magnetic fields over the right temporoparietal lobes: A replication.” International journal of neuroscience 87.3-4 (1996): 201-207.

Spiegel, H. & Spiegel, D. (1978) Trance and treatment. Basic Books: N.Y.

Pierre, LS St, and M. A. Persinger. “Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence is predicted by the specific patterns of the applied magnetic fields, not by suggestibility: re-analyses of 19 experiments.” International Journal of Neuroscience 116.19 (2006): 1079-1096.

Baker-Price, L. A., and Michael A. Persinger. “Weak, but complex pulsed magnetic fields may reduce depression following traumatic brain injury.”  Perceptual and motor skills 83.2 (1996): 491-498.

Baker-Price, Laura, and Michael A. Persinger. “Intermittent burst-firing weak (1 microTesla) magnetic fields reduce psychometric depression in patients who sustained closed head injuries: A replication and electroencephalographic validation.” Perceptual and motor skills 96.3 (2003): 965-974.

Tsang, Eric W., Stanley A. Koren, and Michael A. Persinger. “Specific patterns of weak (1 microTesla) transcerebral complex magnetic fields differentially affect depression, fatigue, and confusion in normal volunteers.” Electromagnetic biology and medicine 28.4 (2009): 365-373.

Corradini, Paula L.; Mark W. G. Collins; Dr. Michael A. Persinger  “Facilitation of Declarative Memory and Congruent Brain States by Applications of Weak, Patterned Magnetic Fields: The Future of Memory Access?”  International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Vol. 4, No. 13; November 2014

Hu, Jing H., et al. “Growth of injected melanoma cells is suppressed by whole body exposure to specific spatial-temporal configurations of weak intensity magnetic fields.” International journal of radiation biology 86.2 (2010): 79-88.

Buckner CA, Buckner AL, Koren SA, Persinger MA, Lafrenie RM (2015) Inhibition of Cancer Cell Growth by Exposure to a Specific Time-Varying Electromagnetic Field Involves T-Type Calcium Channels. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0124136. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124136

Whissell, P.D. , Persinger, M.A.; “Developmental effects of perinatal exposure to extremely weak 7 Hz magnetic fields and nitric oxide modulation in the Wistar albino rat ” International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience 25 (2007) 433–439

McKay, B. E., and M. A. Persinger. “Normal spatial and contextual learning for ketamine-treated rats in the pilocarpine epilepsy model.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 78.1 (2004): 111-119.

Bureau, Y. R. J., O. Peredery, and M. A. Persinger. “Concordance of quantitative damage within the diencephalon and telencephalon following systemic pilocarpine (380 mg/kg) or lithium (3 mEq/kg)/pilocarpine (30 mg/kg) induced seizures.” Brain Research 648.2 (1994): 265-269.

Missaghi, Babik, Pauline M. Richards, and Michael A. Persinger. “Severity of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis in rats depends upon the temporal contiguity between limbic seizures and inoculation.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 43.4 (1992): 1081-1086.

Cook, Lisa L., and M. A. Persinger. “Infiltration of lymphocytes in the limbic brain following stimulation of subclinical cellular immunity and low dosages of lithium and a cholinergic agent.” Toxicology letters 109.1 (1999): 77-85.

Mulligan, Bryce P. , Noa Gang, Glenn H. Parker, Michael A. Persinger  “Magnetic Field Intensity/Melatonin-Molarity Interactions: Experimental Support with Planarian (Dugesia sp.) Activity for a Resonance-Like Process” Open Journal of Biophysics, 2012, 2, 137-143

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Replication of God Helmet experiment and many other of our results. – a Blog by Dr. Michael A Persinger.

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Much of our work, including with the God Helmet, has indeed been replicated. Claims to the contrary are mistaken . – A blog by Dr. M.A. Persinger. Question: Have any God Helmet effects been replicated?  Have other results from your lab … Continue reading

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God Helmet Experiments use Blind Protocols and Placebo Controls – A Blog By Dr. M.A. Persinger

God_helmetOur God Helmet experiments employ double-blind conditions and placebo protocols – a Blog by Dr. Michael A. Persinger.

Our Critics are mistaken when they claim we do not use proper controls.  We are committed to the scientific method, especially in laboratory experiments, including subject blindness, experimenter blindness, control groups, and blindness by those who analyse our data.

Question:  What are your standard double-blind and placebo controlled protocols?

Answer: Expectancy and confirmation bias are always important variables when human beings are measuring or being measured. Most of our major experiments over the last three decades with the sensed presence were double blind.  For a placebo, we use a “sham” or absent magnetic field, which we create by disconnecting the solenoids (magnetic coils) from the signal source.  We also exploit all ways and means for ensuring that our subjects are not given any suggestions as to the purpose of the experiment.

Subject Expectations

The subjects volunteered for a relaxation study and were told (via the consent form) they might be exposed to a weak magnetic field. Four to six weeks prior to their participation, the subjects had completed intake questionnaires.  Some critics have mistakenly said that our questionnaires (which asked about some spiritual and otherworldly experiences and beliefs) were administered immediately before the experimental sessions, and that this introduced inadvertent suggestions. In fact, our standard procedure is to separate the questionnaires from the sessions by an average of a month.  They are eventually invited to participate in a “Relaxation Experiment”, so they are unaware that the questionnaires given previously have any relation to the experiment.  The subjects are kept in the experimentally blind condition.  They are not influenced by expectations when coming into our lab.  The lab itself looks like a busy workplace, and is not decorated with religious or spiritual images.

Blind Protocols

The experimenter, usually an undergraduate or graduate student, who runs the experiment is not aware of the true hypothesis or mechanism.

One summary of our work with the sensed presence is our publication, “The sensed presence within experimental settings: implications for the male and female concept of self” The Journal of Psychology, 2003, 137, 5-16. link

Here is a very brief summary of that experiment, with its 50 male and 50 female subjects.

In this study, we used a signal derived from burst-firing in the amygdala, applying it over the temporal lobes via a set of four solenoids over each temporal lobe.  We rotated the signal by turning them on and off in sequence.  All of this was built into the hardware (The God Helmet) or coded into the software that drives it, written by Stanley Koren.  We applied the signal for 10 minutes, gave it a 5 minute break, and applied it for another 10 minutes.  This was done to avoid habituation.

We observed double-blind conditions (access the research report):

“All participants were tested by experimenters who were not familiar with the purpose of the experiment.”

“The participants were told that the experiment was concerned with relaxation.”

Note that in some experiments, subjects were told that the experiment concerned memory.  The relaxation and memory suggestions kept the subject in an experimentally blind condition.

The experimenter ran different patterns of magnetic fields created by Professor Stan Koren and me.  Once the results were collected they were analyzed routinely by SPSS  (statistical analysis) software.

Women reported more frequent experiences of a sensed presence than men did , and men were more likely than women to consider these experiences as “intrusions” from extrapersonal or ego-alien sources. Both effects were predicted by one of our hypotheses (vectoral hemisphericity) and the known neurologically-based cognitive differences between right-handed men and right-handed women.

The point here is that we do in fact use double-blind conditions, and claims to the contrary are simply not true.  Other examples, referenced here, include Richards (1992) Persinger (1994), Healey (1996), Persinger (1999), Persinger, (2002) Booth (2005), Tiller (2002), Corradini, (2014).  I have emphasized this in my response to Pehr Granqvist (who made critical technical errors with our equipment, and alleged that our results were due to improper blinding and subject suggestibility), as follows:

“In all of our major studies, involving more than 400 subjects, during the last 20 years the subjects were not aware of their experimental conditions and experimenters were not familiar with the hypotheses being tested or both were not aware of the experimental condition. Subjects had volunteered for “memory” or “relaxation” studies and were randomly or serially allocated to conditions. The “sensed presence” issue was never discussed. The person generating the hypothesis never had direct contact with the subjects.” (Persinger, 2005)

Regrettably, online critics often fail to include this critical reply to Dr. Granqvist.

Let me underscore that we have applied double-blind protocols in our “sensed presence” studies, (to make the differences in stimulation explicit) by quoting another of our papers:

“Under double blind conditions, the subjects who were exposed to the burst-firing pattern presented over both hemispheres or the right hemisphere reported more sensed presences than those exposed to the sham-field [control] or to left hemispheric presentations. Subjects in the latter condition reported fewer sensed presences than the sham-field controls. (Booth, 2005 B)”

Here, stimulation of the right hemisphere is compared to both stimulation of the left, and to controls.  This method allows greater certainty for our results.

Moreover, we often employ “blind” analysis of EEG and QEEG data, in which the person carrying out the analysis does not know what hypothesis the data is intended to study (Makarec, 1990).

In our rat studies, we also carry out blind analysis of rat brain sections, in which the investigator does not know which brain regions may have been affected by a procedure, or the magnitude of the differences predicted between the rat brains used in the study and those which were not (Fournier, 2012). In rat studies investigating differences in rat behavior following stimulation with magnetic signals, the experimenter observing their behavior is kept blind to the experimental condition (Whissell, 2007, McKay, 2004, Bureau, 1994, Babik, 1992).  Our examination of microscope slides from rat subjects and controls is also done under blind conditions (Cook, 1999). We have also carried out similar procedures with worm (planarium – Dugesia sp.) studies (Mulligan, 2012).

” …a total of 10 undergraduate students participated in measuring the worms’ activity; the students were unaware of the experimental conditions, that is, the study was completely “blind”.”

When we analyze the congruence between intuitively-derived narratives from individuals with exceptional cognitive skills and actual information, we use groups of student “raters” who compare the two data sets, and rate the degree of congruence.  All raters are “blind” in that they don’t know anything about the circumstances under which the narratives were derived, or the overall purpose of the experiment (Hunter, 2010).  We also employed the same technique to assess the accuracy of remote viewing by the artist Ingo Swann using graphic images he sketched during remote viewing sessions, augmented by our “Octopus” apparatus (Persinger, 2002, B).  In a related case history, we attempted to interpolate a specific image from a collection of art prints into the dreams of another.  The “agent”, who repeatedly viewed a randomly-chosen (based on dice throws) art image, was the only one who knew which image was being used.

“The interviews were conducted double blind; neither the percipient nor the experimenters knew the identity of the target or the pool of art prints from which the target had been randomly selected.”

The results demonstrated that greater accuracy was associated with lower geomagnetic activity.

Placebo Controlled, Double-Blind Studies.

Our placebo controls are created by using inert electromagnets (solenoids).  These are not attached to the signal source.  The experimental procedures are identical in all other respects.  We also use our sham fields in studies in conjunction with double-blind conditions.  Here are a few examples:

  • Corradini’s (2014) study facilitating declarative memory
  • Fournier’s (2012) experiment with prenatal rat hippocampus stimulation
  • Mulligan’s (2012) study with planaria.
  • Whissell’s (2007) experiment on the interactions of nitric oxide and seven hertz magnetic fields.
  • Booth’s (2005) sensed presence study.
  • My own study on increased alpha activity from the left hemisphere with stimulation with our burst-firing pattern (Persinger, 1999).
  • My study on enhanced hypnotic suggestibility (Persinger, 1996).
  • A study that assessed the pleasantness of a long-term potentiation signal (Persinger, 1994).
  • A study of coherent responses to Reiki between practitioners and clients (Ventura, 2014)
  • An experiment with altered state experiences with circumcerebral magnetic stimulation (Collins, 2013)
  • Lowering depression and increasing alpha activity in the frontal lobe. (Corradini, 2013)

Sham fields are also used in our studies with cell cultures (Murugan, 2014 A), water Ph (Murigan, 2014 B), Obesity in rats (St-Pierre, 2014), Suppression of Cancer cells, (Karbowski, 2012), energy storage in water (Gang, 2012), planeria studies (Gang, 2011)  and scores of other studies that didn’t use human subjects.

The issue of double blind and placebo control is less important with our modern technology because of the availability of normative (“averages”) for different states, including placebo response states.  Comparing the results of our EEG studies to standard normative EEG states allows us to make inferences that would have required baseline (control) readings just a few years ago (Congedo, 2010).

During the last 5 years, quantitative electroencephalographic measurements by computer and the algorithms to compute distributions of power within the volume of the brain for different frequency bands have become available, and these have revealed that different patterns of fields, delivered to different sides of the brain, produce specific patterns regardless if the person knows if a field is presented or not (Saroka, 2013). Placebo effects produce very specific patterns that are not the same as those associated with either the field presentation or the field plus sensed presence effect.

In spite of claims to the contrary, we do use placebo controls and blind experimental conditions.  Our emphasis has been on quantifiable data, replication, and blind conditions, wherever possible and appropriate.  We remain committed to the scientific method.

I hope this blog will clarify our use of blind conditions, placebo controls and suggestion in our laboratory.

Dr. Michael A. Persinger
Full Professor
Behavioural Neuroscience, Biomolecular Sciences and Human Studies
Departments of Psychology and Biology
Laurentian University,
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada P3E 2C6
Email: mpersinger@laurentian.ca and drpersinger@neurocog.ca
NOTE: This blog is hosted by a colleague.


P.M. Richards, S.A. Koren, M.A. Persinger, Experimental stimulation by burst-firing weak magnetic fields over the right temporal lobe may facilitate apprehension in women, Perceptual and Motor Skills 75 (1992) 667–670.

Persinger MA, Richards PM, Koren SA.  “Differential ratings of pleasantness following right and left hemispheric application of low energy magnetic fields that stimulate long-term potentiation.”  International Journal of Neuroscience. 1994 Dec;79(3-4):191-7.

Healey F, Persinger MA, Koren SA.  “Enhanced hypnotic suggestibility following application of burst-firing magnetic fields over the right temporoparietal lobes: a replication.”  International Journal of Neuroscience.  1996 Nov;87(3-4):201-7.

Krippner, Stanley, and Persinger, Michael. “Evidence for enhanced congruence between dreams and distant target material during periods of decreased geomagnetic activity.” Journal of Scientific Exploration 10.4 (1996): 487-493.

Persinger, M. A. “Increased emergence of alpha activity over the left but not the right temporal lobe within a dark acoustic chamber: differential response of the left but not the right hemisphere to transcerebral magnetic fields.” International Journal of Psychophysiology 34.2 (1999): 163-169.

M.A. Persinger, F. Healey, Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence: possible intercalation between the hemispheres induced by complex magnetic fields, Journal of . Nervous and Mental Disorders. 190 (2002) 533–541.

Booth, J. N., S. A. Koren, and M. A. Persinger. “Increased feelings of the sensed presence and increased geomagnetic activity at the time of the experience during exposures to transcerebral weak complex magnetic fields.”International Journal of Neuroscience 115.7 (2005 A): 1053-1079.

Tiller, S.G; Persinger, M.A. , Geophysical variables and behavior: XCVII. Increased proportions of left-sided sense of presence induced experimentally by right hemispheric application of specific (frequency-modulated) complex magnetic fields, Perceptual and Motor Skills 94 (2002) 26–28.

Persinger, Michael A., Letter to the Editor “A response to Granqvist et al. “Sensed presence and mystical experiences are predicted by suggestibility, not by the application of transcranial weak magnetic fields” Neuroscience Letters 380 (2005) 346–347

Makarec, Katherine,; Persinger, Michael A. “Electroencephalographic Validation of a Temporal Lobe Signs Inventory in a Normal Population”, Journal of Research in Personality, 24, 323-337 (1990)

Corradini, Paula L. Collins, Mark W. G.  Persinger Dr. Michael A.  “Facilitation of Declarative Memory and Congruent Brain States by Applications of Weak, Patterned Magnetic Fields: The Future of Memory Access?”  International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Vol. 4, No. 13; November 2014, 30

Neil M. Fournier, Quoc Hao Mach, Paul D. Whissell, Michael A. Persinger “Neurodevelopmental anomalies of the hippocampus in rats exposed to weak intensity complex magnetic fields throughout gestation” International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience 30 (2012) 427–433

Whissell, P.D. , Persinger, M.A.; “Developmental effects of perinatal exposure to extremely weak 7 Hz magnetic fields and nitric oxide modulation in the Wistar albino rat ” International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience 25 (2007) 433–439

McKay, B. E., and M. A. Persinger. “Normal spatial and contextual learning for ketamine-treated rats in the pilocarpine epilepsy model.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 78.1 (2004): 111-119.

Bureau, Y. R. J., O. Peredery, and M. A. Persinger. “Concordance of quantitative damage within the diencephalon and telencephalon following systemic pilocarpine (380 mg/kg) or lithium (3 mEq/kg)/pilocarpine (30 mg/kg) induced seizures.” Brain Research 648.2 (1994): 265-269.

Missaghi, Babik, Pauline M. Richards, and Michael A. Persinger. “Severity of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis in rats depends upon the temporal contiguity between limbic seizures and inoculation.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 43.4 (1992): 1081-1086.

Cook, Lisa L., and M. A. Persinger. “Infiltration of lymphocytes in the limbic brain following stimulation of subclinical cellular immunity and low dosages of lithium and a cholinergic agent.” Toxicology letters 109.1 (1999): 77-85.

Mulligan, Bryce P. , Noa Gang, Glenn H. Parker, Michael A. Persinger  “Magnetic Field Intensity/Melatonin-Molarity Interactions: Experimental Support with Planarian (Dugesia sp.) Activity for a Resonance-Like Process” Open Journal of Biophysics, 2012, 2, 137-143

Hunter, M.D., Mulligan, B.P., Dotta, B. T., Saroka, K. S., Lavallee, C. F., Koren, S. A., & Persinger, M. A., “Cerebral Dynamics and Discrete Energy Changes in the Personal Physical Environment During Intuitive-Like States and Perceptions” Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research December 2010, Vol. 1, Issue 9, pp. 1179-1197

Persinger MA, Roll WG, Tiller SG, Koren SA, Cook CM.  “Remote viewing with the artist Ingo Swann: neuropsychological profile, electroencephalographic correlates, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and possible mechanisms.”  Perceptual and Motor Skills.  2002(B) Jun;94(3 Pt 1):927-49.

Murugan, Nirosha J., Lukasz M. Karbowski, and Michael A. Persinger. “Weak burst-firing magnetic fields that produce analgesia equivalent to morphine do not initiate activation of proliferation pathways in human breast cells in culture.” (2014).

Murugan, N. J., L. M. Karbowski, and M. A. Persinger. “Serial pH Increments (~ 20 to 40 Milliseconds) in Water during Exposures to Weak, Physiologically Patterned Magnetic Fields: Implications for Consciousness.” Water 6 (2014): 45-60.

St-Pierre, Linda S., and Michael A. Persinger. “Progressive Obesity in Female Rats from Synergistic Interactions between Drugs and Whole Body Application of Weak, Physiologically Patterned Magnetic Fields.” Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science 2014

Ventura, Anabela C., Kevin S. Saroka, and Michael A. Persinger. “Non-Locality changes in intercerebral theta band coherence between practitioners and subjects during distant Reiki procedures.” Journal of Nonlocality 3.1 (2014).

Collins, Mark W. G. Persinger, Michael A.  “Changing Velocity Circumcerebral Magnetic Fields Produce Altered State Experiences and Lowered Delta-Theta Power over the Temporal Lobes”  Frontiers in Psychological and Behavioral Science Apr. 2013, Vol. 2 Iss. 2, PP. 26-29

Corradini, Paula L., and Michael A. Persinger. “Brief Cerebral Applications of Weak, Physiologically-patterned Magnetic Fields Decrease Psychometric Depression and Increase Frontal Beta Activity in Normal Subjects.” Journal of Neurology & Neurophysiology (2013).

Karbowski, Lukasz M., et al. “Digitized quantitative electroencephalographic patterns applied as magnetic fields inhibit melanoma cell proliferation in culture.” Neuroscience letters 523.2 (2012): 131-134.

Gang, N., L. S. St-Pierre, and M. A. Persinger. “Water dynamics following treatment by one hour 0.16 Tesla static magnetic fields depend on exposure volume.” Water 3 (2012): 122-131.

Gang, Noa, and Michael A. Persinger. “Planarian activity differences when maintained in water pre-treated with magnetic fields: a nonlinear effect.”Electromagnetic biology and medicine 30.4 (2011): 198-204.

Congedo, Marco, et al. “Group independent component analysis of resting state EEG in large normative samples.” International Journal of Psychophysiology78.2 (2010): 89-99.

Saroka, Kevin & Persinger MA, “Potential production of Hughlings Jackson’s “parasitic consciousness” by physiologically patterned weak transcerebral magnetic fields: QEEG and source localization” Epilepsy and Behavior, 2013, 28, 395-407

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