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: and
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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Replications of our work on Geomagnetism and Paranormal Phenomena – A Blog By Dr. Michael A. Persinger.

Several researchers, including myself, have observed correlations between geomagnetic activity and reports of paranormal phenomena. A blog by Dr. M.A. Persinger.

Question: It has been said that your work on the effects of geomagnetic variables on paranormal phenomena “has not been replicated”. Is this true?Dr. Michael Persinger

Answer: No; Our results have been replicated repeatedly.

Confused claims that my work (on the effects of geomagnetic influences on paranormal phenomena) has not been replicated are based on the mistaken belief that its based on experiments.   Instead, the results are based on statistical analyses (replication procedures are for experiments) correlating a wide range of data with geomagnetic states.  To validate a statistical study, one has only to obtain the data, and perform the calculations.

The “geomagnetic effect” has been found in a variety of anecdotal data throughout recorded history.  The experimental dream psi studies from Ullmann and Krippner (1970) were done almost 50 years ago.

For decades after that, groups of researchers, including myself and my colleagues, have investigated the contributions of the geomagnetic field to paranormal phenomena.  Each working independently, we have replicated and extended one another’s work.  There are a few differences in what we’ve found.  Replication and significant convergences in results are commonplace in this field.

Spottiswoode (1997) reported that unusually high effect sizes may be observed in trials with anomalous cognition (PSI, ESP, etc) occurring during specific windows in sidereal time when geomagnetic fluctuations are also minimal.  This confirms our finding that geomagnetic quiet is conducive to these kinds of experiences.  The same author (1990) also reported negative correlations between scores in free response anomalous cognition experiments and geomagnetic fluctuations, confirmed in four datasets which showed significant anomalous cognition.

Adrian Ryan has explored the correlations we have seen between geophysical activity and hypothesized that ESP effects may be due to geomagnetic pulsations, a line of research that both replicates and extends some of our efforts (Ryan, 2008).

Researchers Haraldsson and Gissurarson (1987) studied the scores from 70 Ganzfeld sessions (telepathy-clairvoyance) and found they related significantly to high geomagnetic activity of the day prior to the experimental sessions but not to the geomagnetic activity during the day of the sessions. The same relationship was found in experiments which consisted mostly of 80 trials with clairvoyance computer games per subject.  Their results partially confirmed our earlier findings that spontaneous paranormal experience tend to occur on a day of low geomagnetic activity which is preceded by days of high geomagnetic activity.

Lipniki (2009) replicated the geomagnetic effect without referring to psi effects in a case report where dreams from low geomagnetic activity periods were found to be significantly more bizarre than dreams from periods with high geomagnetic activity .

Another case history implies a strong correlation between sleep paralysis and geomagnetic quiet.   Conesa (1995) reported that periods of relatively quiet geomagnetic activity were significantly associated with an increased incidence of sleep paralysis episodes, and also (Conesa, 1997) dream vividness.  Moturi et al., (2013) also noted correlations between geomagnetic states and sleep paralysis.

In a study done during the quietest geomagnetic year in a century, small correlations were found with male subjects, who showed higher psi scores when the geomagnetic field was more active.  However, in confirmation of our results, the participants with the highest temporal lobe questionnaire scores showed the strongest correlation of psi with geomagnetic activity (Roney-Dougal, 2014).  This corroborates our early finding that PSI effects are most probable during times of geomagnetic quiet.  We have published several papers showing this effect, including a meta-analysis spanning 60 years of studies (Berger, 1991).  It also replicates our result that Temporal Lobe Signs are higher for people reporting PSI skills and experiences. (Persinger, 1990)

The “geomagnetic” effect as inferred from solar wind velocity was reported by Randall and Randall (1991), who examined data from the 19th century on hallucinations and magnetic disturbances.  These were found to exhibit a direct and statistically significant correlation.  It’s easy to see how this corroborates our work correlating geomagnetic activity with paranormal, PSI, ESP and other anomalous experiences when we recall that changes in solar winds are one of the primary sources for geomagnetic variations.

Our work with the effects of elevated magnetic field strengths (rather than geomagnetic activity) has been replicated by JJ Braithwaite (2004), who reported that  That “the overall magnetic field strength (amplitude) is greater at areas of interest [areas generating higher numbers of reports of paranormal perceptions] relative to baseline areas”.  The same researcher (2005) observed the same effect in a “haunted bedroom”.  This corroborated and extended of our results in it’s observation of “large static inhomogeneous magnetic field and complex temporal distortions in the time-varying (AC) magnetic fields”.  We have seen (Persinger, 1997) that similarly anisotropic structures within both the geomagnetic field and in our complex magnetic stimulation fields also contribute to their subjective effects.

Our work on the association between geomagnetic and paranormal phenomena has also been replicated by Roll (2000) who made recordings of the local geomagnetic fields (GMFs), electromagnetic fields (EMFs), and ion densities in putatively haunted locations. On the basis of previous studies he predicted that the sites would exhibit anomalous EMFs or GMFs. Ten out of twelve of the sites did show such anomalies.

It’s also worth noting that in addition to the paranormal and ESP effects noted above, the scientific literature includes many studies of the effects of geomagnetic activity on medical and psychiatric disorders and issues.  These include stress (Rapoport, 1998 ), suicide (Berk, 2005), blood pressure (Dimitrova, 2004) psychiatric admissions (Raps, 1992), stroke (Feigin, 2014), changes in EEG profiles (Novik, 2013) and errors in performing laboratory tasks (Binhi, 2009).  The geomagnetic field makes these effects more likely, but doesn’t cause them.

I hope this blog will clarify the value of studying geophysical influences on human cognition and health.

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: and
NOTE: This blog is hosted by a colleague.



Ullman, Montague, and Stanley Krippner. Dream studies and telepathy: An experimental approach. No. 12. Parapsychology Foundation, 1970.

Roney-Dougal, Serena M., Ryan, Adrian , and Luke, David  “THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LOCAL GEOMAGNETIC ACTIVITY AND PSYCHIC AWARENESS”, Journal of Parapsychology, 2014, 78(2), 235–254

Haraldsson, Erlendur; Gissurarson, Loftur R. “Does geomagnetic activity effect extrasensory perception? Personality and individual differences, 1987, v8 (n5):745-747

Ryan, Adrian. “New insights into the links between ESP and geomagnetic activity.” Journal of Scientific Exploration 22.3 (2008): 335-358.

Persinger, M.A.; Fisher, Susan; “Elevated, Specific Temporal lobe Signs in a Population Engaged in Psychic Studies”. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1990, 71, 817-818

Lipnicki DM. “An association between geomagnetic activity and dream bizarreness.” Medical Hypotheses. 2009 Jul;73(1):115-7.

Nishimura T, Tada H, Nakatani E, Matsuda K, Teramukai S, Fukushima M.”Stronger geomagnetic fields may be a risk factor of male suicides.” Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. 2014 Jun;68(6):404-9.

Gordon, Charmaine;  Berk Michael  “The effect of geomagnetic storms on suicide.”  South African Psychiatry Review 2003;6:24-27

Spottiswoode, S. James P. “Geomagnetic fluctuations and free-response anomalous cognition: A new understanding.” Journal of Parapsychology 61.1 (1997): 3-12.

Berger R.E.; Persinger, M.A. “Geophysical variables and behavior: LXVII. Quieter annual geomagnetic Activity and effect Size for Experimental psi (ESP) studies over six decades”. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1991 Dec, v73 (n3, Pt2 Spec issue):1219-1223

Conesa J.  “Relationship between isolated sleep paralysis and geomagnetic influences: a case study.”  Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1995 Jun;80 (3 Pt 2):1263-73. link

CONESA JORGE (1997) ISOLATED SLEEP PARALYSIS, VIVID DREAMS AND GEOMAGNETIC INFLUENCES: II. Perceptual and Motor Skills: Volume 85, Issue , pp. 579-584.

Moturi, Sricharan, and Poojitha Matta. “Recurrent Isolated Sleep Paralysis (RISP).” Parasomnias. Springer New York, 2013. 201-206.

Randall W, Randall S. “The solar wind and hallucinations—a possible relation due to magnetic disturbances.”  Bioelectromagnetics. 1991;12(1):67-70.

Braithwaite, Jason J. “Magnetic variances associated with ‘haunt-type’experiences: a comparison using time-synchronised baseline measurements.” European Journal of Parapsychology 19 (2004): 3-28.

Braithwaite, Jason J., and Maurice Townsend. “Research Note: Sleeping With the Entity–A Quantitative Magnetic Investigation of an English Castle’s Reputedly ‘Haunted’Bedroom.” European Journal of Parapsychology 20 (2005): 65-78.

Persinger, Michael A. “Metaphors for the effects of weak, sequentially complex magnetic fields.” Perceptual and motor skills 85.1 (1997): 204-206.

Roll, W.G., & Nichols, A (2000) “Psychological and electromagnetic aspects of haunts.” Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association. 364-378.pS

Rapoport SI, Boldypakova TD, Malinovskaia NK, Oraevski? VN, Meshcheriakova SA, Breus TK, Sosnovski? AM. “Magnetic storms as a stress factor.” Biofizika [Biophysics]. 1998 Jul-Aug;43(4):632-9.

Berk M, Dodd S, Henry M. “Do ambient electromagnetic fields affect behaviour? A demonstration of the relationship between geomagnetic storm activity and suicide” Bioelectromagnetics. 2005 Nov 22;27(2):151-155

Raps A, Stoupel E, Shimshoni M. “Geophysical variables and behavior: LXIX. Solar activity and admission of psychiatric patients. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1992 Apr;74(2):449-50.

Dimitrova S, Stoilova I, Cholakov I. “Influence of local geomagnetic storms on arterial blood pressure.” Bioelectromagnetics. 2004 Sep;25(6):408-14.

Feigin VL(et al.) “Geomagnetic storms can trigger stroke: evidence from 6 large population-based studies in Europe and Australasia.” Stroke. 2014 Jun;45(6):1639-45.

Novik OB, Smirnov FA. “Geomagnetic storm decreases coherence of electric oscillations of human brain while working at the computer.” Biofizika (Biophysics). 2013 May-Jun;58(3):554-60

Binhi VN, Sarimov RM. “Zero magnetic field effect observed in human cognitive processes.” Electromagnetic and Biological Medicine. 2009;28(3):310-5.


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The Tectonic Strain Theory and French’s “Haunted Room” Experiment – a Blog By Dr. Michael Persinger.

My Tectonic Strain Theory is alive and well – a Blog by Dr. M.A. Persinger.

Despite claims to the contrary, there have been a number of replications, corroborations, and validations of my work with the Tectonic Strain Theory from several independent researchers.

Misleading claims that my work with Tectonic Strain Theory has not been replicated are based on the mistaken belief that its based on experiments.   Instead, the theory is based on a series of statistical analyses (replication procedures are for experiments, not statistical arguments).  To “replicate” a statistical study, one only has to obtain the data, and perform the necessary calculations.  In such a case, it would be more properly said to have been “corroborated” or “validated”, not replicated.  Critics, wanting to disparage my work in this field, have pointed to a “Haunted Room” experiment, and incorrectly implied that it was a test of my work on the relationship between geomagnetic conditions and the propensity to report paranormal and other unusual experiences.

Question: Does ChristopherGreat_Balls_of_Lightning French’s “haunted room study” have anything to do with your tectonic strain theory or the way you study the role of the earth’s magnetic field in paranormal experiences?

Answer:  No. French’s experiment has little (if any) relationship to the tectonic strain theory, which explains with the creation of luminosities (“lights in the sky”) before earthquakes.  We have found that these correlate with UFO sightings, apparitions, and other phenomena.  In brief, this theory tells us that electrical and magnetic fields produced by the bedrock while its being strained by the pressure that’s eventually discharged by an earthquake create luminous displays, like earth lights, ball lightning, and sometimes dramatic lights in the sky.  We also find that these fields can create unstable conditions in the brain, especially the deep portions of the temporal lobes.  This instability can lead to hallucinatory experiences which people interpret in terms of their cultural and learning history as well as their private beliefs, so they are interpreted and then seen as spirits, the Virgin Mary, angels, alien spacecraft or ghosts.  This idea has recently been independently proposed by another researcher, who hypothesizes that “ball lightning” may induce hallucinations (Witze, 2010).   My first publication in the field (1976) used the same concept to explain UFO reports.

French’s experiment consisted of trying to construct a “haunted room” by building a room and filling it with magnetic signals and infrasound.  The experiment did not succeed.  French is a well-known skeptic, but not experienced in the proper use of the “complex magnetic” neural stimulation we use in our lab.  We have been able to successfully perform several experiments, inducing paranormal experiences, and apparitions, using this technology, applied using the God Helmet ®.

French’s experiment used a wave pattern that could not have created the conditions for synthetic paranormal experiences because he was not able to generate the appropriate point durations we use in our lab.  The point durations (how long each bit of the signal lasts) are so important that altering them makes them ineffective. I e-mailed him and offered to share the equipment but he declined, and instead chose to develop his own apparatus, including a procedure in which “The … burst pattern was generated by constructing a table of values from (a) graph of the waveform used and then converting these numeric values…” (French, et al., 2008)

The graph French refers to here is a graph of point (X axis) and Field strength (Y axis).  However, the graph doesn’t display the durations of the points on the X axis.  We have kept that specific parameter flexible in order to allow experimentation with different point (or pixel) durations.  Incorrect point durations will yield ineffective signals.  Our many experiments with varying point durations have shown us that precision in this regard is critical.  A metaphor may be helpful here.  It is as though we hear the phrase “clean the turpentine brushes” as “queen a serpentine buses”.  The majority of the phonemes may be correct, but the information content will be absent, and the communication cannot initiate an appropriate response.

My colleague Todd Murphy, who has developed multiple systems that effectively deliver our (complex magnetic) signals points out in a brief web entry that Christopher French used the “Goldwave” audio editor to render his signals.  Professor Murphy used this same method early in 1999 for the first draft of his signals, which did not work.  His signals became effective only after he introduced his proprietary methods for developing the signals the following year.  We validated their effectiveness in a paper published in 2004.  The techniques used to render effective audio equivalents to our (God Helmet) signals were not applied in French’s Study.  Prof. Murphy informs me that his signals were drafted eighteen times overall.

French (at al.) edited his signal ” into a 16-bit.wav file using Goldwave (software) at a sample rate of 1000 Hz for playback via the computer’s soundcard.”  It may be relevant that Murphy’s signals do not use this sampling rate.

Subjects in our experiments are informed that they are participating in a “relaxation experiment”.  French’s subjects were “… informed in advance that they might experience unusual sensations whilst in the chamber …”.  The difference in “priming” may have predisposed his subjects towards apprehensiveness, and facilitated arousal, which we have found reduces effect sizes.

It may also be relevant that the background sound levels in the French study were significantly above the values we require to obtain the sensed presence. That’s why we employ the echoic (acoustically silent) chamber.  When we first started the research 30 years ago we employed New Age Music while the fields were presented and found the sensed presence was actually reduced. That’s why music was removed from the protocol. In addition, because the temporal lobes are discerning the applied fields (as are neuroimaging profiles indicate) sound pressure from any source is also represented within the temporal lobes, and interferes with the effect.  A significant portion of default mode temporal lobe excitation functions to monitor ambient sound.  Employing a truly silent environment recruits this activity into the neural responses to the signals.

Perhaps the most important difference between our procedures and those employed by French (at al.) is that they used a room to apply the signals, while we utilize a helmet, designed for the human head.  Our equipment allows us to apply our signals to either the left or right temporal lobes or both.  This allows us to perform our stimulation sessions with more than one hemispheric presentation.  Our “sensed presence” protocol involves stimulation of one hemisphere (the right) with one signal (derived from a “chirp” sequence) followed by another signal over both hemispheres.  This optimal design for eliciting the sensed presence has been published in the literature.

Utilizing an entire room to apply the signals means that 1) brain regions outside the temporal lobes are not excluded from the stimulation, and 2) it becomes impossible to target only one of the temporal lobes, as we commonly do in our work.  In fact, we have applied our signals in the context of a whole room, and found that whole-body exposures have minimal effects, if any, even when the signals are correctly configured.  We did not publish the study, due to its trivial character, and the non-trivial efforts required by scientific journals for publications.

There are a few online sources that mistakenly claim that our work in this area has not been replicated.  This is not the case.

Several kinds of research combine to support our geophysical research in this area.  The US Geological Survey has reported earth lights in conjunction with earthquakes.  Here is one example:

“During and immediately after the main shock, ‘earthquake lights’ of white to bluish flashes or glows lasting several seconds were reported by a number of observers. Earthquake lights are associated with major earthquakes and have been observed in Japan and California. The lights are believed to be results of earthquake-induced distortions of the atmosphere.”

Several researchers have confirmed our ideas about “earthlights”, and the idea has, in fact, become commonly-accepted (as for example in Smithsonian Magazine), though there continues to be debate on the subject.   A direct replication of some of my research appears in a study by Thériault (2014) titled “Prevalence of Earthquake Lights Associated with Rift Environments” in Seismological Research Letters.  NASA now recognizes earthquake lights as precursors for earthquakes (Bluck, 2001).

“When the rocks in the Earth’s crust crackle and buckle under the onslaught of tectonic forces, the charges that are dormant in them are set free. They give rise to a dazzling array of phenomena, long known to mankind and even part of folklore in earthquake-prone regions around the globe,” said Freund. “These phenomena range from anomalous electric and magnetic signals, to ‘earthquake lights’ that illuminate the mountain tops and strange animal behavior as well as ionospheric effects that impact how radio waves travel over long distances.”

Japanese researchers (Takaki, 1998) have also observed “Change in seismic stress releases piezo-compensating, bound charges due to changes in the piezoelectric polarization of quartz grains in granitic rocks, which produces an intense electric field at the fault zone. The excited or ionized molecules by free electrons accelerated under the electric field produce luminous phenomena in the atmosphere” The also proposed “A model of dark discharge in the atmosphere before a large earthquake was proposed to elucidate the mechanism of generation of earthquake lightning and related electroatmospheric phenomena. Change in seismic stress releases piezo-compensating, bound charges due to changes in the piezoelectric polarization of quartz grains in granitic rocks, which produces an intense electric field at the fault zone.

Researchers at Rutgers University have carried out experiments that support the concept of earthquake lights by emulating earthquake conditions in the lab (Shinbrot, 2012).  These are reported as often being mistaken for UFOs, as in my tectonic strain theory of unusual events.

John Derr, a pioneer in this field of study, was one of the first to propose that geophysical strain could explain earthlights, and other luminous phenomena (Derr, 1986).

Paul Deveraux has published several books of his independent investigations showing the association of these earth lights with paranormal phenomena, which constitutes a replication and confirmation of my work in this area.

To summarize, Christopher French’s “haunted room” experiment was not a test of the tectonic strain theory in any way.  This theory has been independently validated, both in its geophysical hypothesis (that geological strain prior to earthquakes produces earth lights) and its power to explain paranormal (apparitions and UFOs) phenomena.

The theory met with criticism from one researcher, soon after it was published, and I published a reply.

I hope this blog will help to clarify my Tectonic Strain Theory, and to underscore that I am far from alone in these concepts.

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: and
NOTE: This blog is hosted by a colleague.


References for this blog:

French CC, et al., The “Haunt” project: An attempt to build a “haunted” room by manipulating complex electromagnetic fields and infrasound, Cortex (2008), j.cortex.2007.10.011.

Persinger, M. A., Transient geophysical bases for ostensible UFO-related phenomena and associated verbal behavior? Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1976, 43, 215-221.

Witze, Alexandra. “‘Ball lightning’may be hallucinatory.” Science News (2010): 12-12.

Robert Thériault, France St-Laurent, Friedemann T. Freund and John S. Derr “Prevalence of Earthquake Lights Associated with Rift Environments” Seismological Research Letters, 2014 V. 85, No. 1 Pg. 159-178

Tsang EW, Koren SA, Persinger MA.  “Electrophysiological and quantitative electroencephalographic measurements after treatment by transcerebral magnetic fields generated by compact disc through a computer sound card: the Shakti treatment.”  International Journal of Neuroscience. 2004 Aug;114(8):1013-24.

Persinger Michael A,  “The Neuropsychiatry of Paranormal Experiences” Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 13:4, Fall 2001

Bluck , John  NASA press release,

Shunji Takaki, Motoji Ikeya  “A Dark Discharge Model of Earthquake Lightning”  Japanese Journal of Applied Physics  09/1998; 37(9A):5016-5020.

Troy Shinbrot, Nam H. Kim, and N. Nirmal Thyagu  “Electrostatic precursors to granular slip events” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012 vol. 109 no. 27 10806–10810

P. Devereux, “Earthquake Lights Revelation,” Blandford, London, 1989.

Derr, John S.  “Rock mechanics: Luminous phenomena and their relationship to rock fracture” Nature 321, 470 – 471 (29 May 1986)


Corroborating studies:

Lipnicki DM. “An association between geomagnetic activity and dream bizarreness.” Medical Hypotheses. 2009 Jul;73(1):115-7.

Conesa J. “Isolated sleep paralysis, vivid dreams and geomagnetic influences: II. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1997 Oct;85(2):579-84.

Rapoport SI, Boldypakova TD, Malinovskaia NK, Oraevski? VN, Meshcheriakova SA, Breus TK, Sosnovski? AM. “Magnetic storms as a stress factor.” Biofizika [Biophysics]. 1998 Jul-Aug;43(4):632-9.

Dimitrova S, Stoilova I, Cholakov I. “Influence of local geomagnetic storms on arterial blood pressure.” Bioelectromagnetics. 2004 Sep;25(6):408-14.

Haraldsson, Erlendur; Gissurarson, Loftur R. “Does geomagnetic activity effect extrasensory perception? Personality and individual differences, 1987, v8 (n5):745-747
Berk M, Dodd S, Henry M. “Do ambient electromagnetic fields affect behaviour? A demonstration of the relationship between geomagnetic storm activity and suicide” Bioelectromagnetics. 2005 Nov 22;27(2):151-155

Raps A, Stoupel E, Shimshoni M. “Geophysical variables and behavior: LXIX. Solar activity and admission of psychiatric patients. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1992 Apr;74(2):449-50.


An Incomplete Bibliography of my papers on geomagnetic effects:

Persinger, Michael A. “Geophysical variables and behavior: XXX. Intense paranormal experiences during days of quiet, global geomagnetic activity” Perceptual and Motor Skills 1985 Aug v61 (n1): 320-322

Arango, Manuel A.; Persinger, Michael A. “Geophysical Variables and Human Behavior: LII Decreased Geomagnetic Activity and spontaneous Telepathic Experiences from the Sedgwick collection. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1988 Dec v67 (n3):907-909

Persinger, Michael ; Krippner, Stanley. “Dream ESP and Geomagnetic Activity” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1989 Apr v83 (n2):101-116.

Makarec, K.; Persinger, Michael A. Geophysical variables and behavior XLIII “Negative correlation between Geophysical Variables between accuracy of card-guessing and geomagnetic activity: A Case Study” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1987 Aug, v65 (n1) 105-106

Gearhart, Livingston; Persinger, M.A. Geophysical variables and behavior XXXIII. Onsets of historical and contemporary poltergeist episodes occured with sudden increases in geomagnetic activity. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1986 Apr v62 (n2) 463-466

Persinger MA. “Out-of-body-like experiences are more probable in people with elevated complex partial epileptic-like signs during periods of enhanced geomagnetic activity: a nonlinear effect.” Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1995 Apr; v80 (2):563-9.

Schaut, George B. Persinger, Michael A. “Subjective telepathic experiences, geomagnetic activity, and the elf hypothesis: I Data Analysis” PSI Research, 1958 Mar, v4 (n1):4-20

Berger R.E.; Persinger, M.A. “Geophysical variables and behavior: LXVII. Quieter annual geomagnetic Activity and effect Size for Experiemntal psi (ESP) studies over six decades”. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1991 Dec, v73 (n3, Pt2 Spec issue):1219-1223

Persinger, Michael A.; Nolan, Michael “Geophysical variables and behavior XX. “Weekly numbers of mining accidents and the weather matrix: The importance of geomagnetic variation and barometric pressure. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1984 Dec, v59 (n3):719-722

Lewicki, Dougals R.; Schaut, George H; Persinger, Michael A. “Geophysical variables and behavior XLIV. Days of subjective precognitive experiences and the days before the actual events display correlated geomagnetic activity” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1987, aug, v65 (n1):173-174

Persinger, Michael A. “Geophysical variables and behavior: L Indications of a tectonic strain factor in the Rutlidge (UFO) observations during 1973 in southwest Missouri” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1988 Oct, v67 (n2): 571-575

Persinger, M.A.; Derr, J.S. “Geophysical variables and behavior: XXII. Relations between UFO reports within the Uinta Basin and local seismicity” Perceptual and Motor Skills 1985, Feb; 60 (1) :143-152

Persinger, M.A.; Derr, J.S. “Geophysical variables and behavior: XXXII. Evaluations of UFO reports in an area of infrequent seismicity: The Carmen, Manitoba episode.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1985 Dec, v61 (n3, Pt1): 807-813

Derr, J.S.; Persinger, M.A. “Geophysical variables and behavior: LXXVI. Seasonal hydrological load and regional luminous phenomena (UFO reports) within river systems, the Mississippi Valley test” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1993 Dec, v77 (n3, Pt62), 1163-1170

Matteson, Dan; Persinger, M.A. “Geophysical variables and behavior: XXXV. Positive correlations between numbers of UFO reports and earthquake activity in Sweden.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1986 Oct, v63 (n2, Pt2) 921-922

Persinger, M.A.; Derr, J.S. “Geophysical variables and behavior: LXII. Temporal coupling of UFO reports and seismic energy release within the Rio Grande rift system: discrimative validity of the tectonic strain theory.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1990 Oct, v71 (n2): 567-57

Persinger, M.A.; Derr, J.S. “Geophysical variables and behavior: XIX Strong temporal relationships between inclusive seismic measures and UFO reports within Washington state. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1984, 59, 551-566

John S. Derr & Michal A. Persinger ‘Geophysical Variables and Behavior: LIV. Zeitoun (Egypt) Apparations of the Virgin Mary as Tectonic Strain-induced Luminosities. Perceptual and Motor Skills 1989, 68, 123-128


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Richard Dawkins – Alcohol and the God Helmet don’t mix. – Dr. M.A. Persinger’s Blog

Dawkins had been drinking before his God Helmet Session, and that can interfere with its effects – a Blog by Dr. Michael Persinger.

Question: Richard Dawkins is seen drinking wine or wine mixed with soda water (a “Wine Cooler”) before his session with the God Helmet in the BBC video showing his visit to your lab. Had he been drinking before the session? Will alcohol interfere with the God Helmet effects?


Answer: Yes, he had been drinking. The scent was easily noticed. In addition, he was obliged to sit in hot lights within the chamber for almost an hour as the BBC director managed several television studio details before the experiment began. This forced us to deviate from our typical protocol where the person walks into the dimly lit chamber and we begin the experiment within a few minutes. We have found that intoxication, particularly ethanol, interferes with the experimental induction of the sensed presence. That is why we always employed an EEG monitoring at the time of the exposure. If the brain state is not optimal, similar to the calm or relaxation that facilitates meditation or prayer, the fields do not optimally interact.

In addition, Dawkins had a low score for temporal lobe sensitivity, as mentioned on several web pages (example).  Ordinarily, there are ways we can compensate, but these conditions made it difficult.  Getting a subject to relax can take time before the session begins, and on that occasion, we were already pressed for time.  Interested readers can see “The neurotourist: Postcards from the Edge of Brain Science“, where author Lone Frank, who visited our lab, tells how her EEG showed she wasn’t in the right frame of mind, and we waited until our EEG showed she was ready.  BBC procedures and Dawkins’ perfectly reasonable impatience made this impossible.  I have not mentioned these aspects of Dawkins experience in our lab as a courtesy to those involved, but the large and growing number of web pages discussing this case has made it clear that withholding these details now serves to distort the truth.

Two other prominent skeptics, Dr. Susan Blackmore and Michael Shermer, had phenomena-rich God Helmet sessions in our lab.  Michael Shermer (editor of Skeptic Magazine) said that he had “…not only a sensed presence experience but an out-of-body experience as well”, Dr Susan Blackmore said:  “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.”   These are relevant in view of the mistaken online claim that the God Helmet doesn’t work on skeptics.

Nevertheless, in spite of these limitations, Richard Dawkins did have some effects, but they were somatic, and not cognitive or affective, as we usually see.  He reported a mild dizziness and twitching in his legs and a “twitchy” feeling in his breathing.

I hope that this brief blog will lend clarity to this well-known case history.

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: and
NOTE: This blog is hosted by a colleague.


Dawkins in chair

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My theories are not based on religiousness in epileptics – Dr M. A. Persinger’s blog

Question: Are “microseizures” (a concept you have used to help explain religious experiences) actually epileptic events?  (A Blog by Dr. M.A. Persinger)

Answer: No, although they do have some things in common with epileptic events (seizures) because they originate from the same source; i.e., moments of instability in the temporal lobes, most particularly in it’s deeper (limbic) regions.  Most phenomena that share a common cause are distributed along a continuum (or spectrum) of intensity with degrees of “how much” (or how strong).  For example, a few times during their lives, for brief periods, most people display the symptoms that define depression, thought disorders (such as schizophrenia) and personality disorders. However, it is only when the symptoms dominate the person’s behaviours more or less continuously, that the condition is considered abnormal.  To employ a metaphor, ordinary religious experiences rely on brief “unsettled” conditions in the temporal lobes, but not full temporal lobe epileptic seizures.

“Microseizures” is a term I borrowed from Goldensohn (1975, 1983) who described epileptic activity from the small columns within the cerebral cortices induced by surgical electrodes (that was not evident by typical scalp brain wave activity) to indicate subclinical electrical patterns that shared some features with (but were not the same as) epileptic events.  A more recent publication (Stead, et al., 2010) describes Goldensohn’s findings as follows:

“They demonstrated focal evolving microepileptiform discharges after penicillin injection on single electrodes in an array of electrodes spaced 2 mm apart with no reflection of the discharges on adjacent electrodes.”  link

In other words, electrical discharges creating EEG (electroencephalographic) patterns which are not unlike epileptic activity can appear from the brain.  These do not spread to other areas the way true epileptic seizure activity does.  Note that in the above quotation, such activity was read from one sensor, but the other, only two millimeters away, did not detect it.  This has been the primary exemplar of microseizures in my work.  To clarify further, microseizures are non-epileptic events that mimic seizural activity, taking place in exceedingly small (“pinpoint”) volumes of brain space.

My theory of the continuum of temporal lobe lability (offered as an explanation for the wide differences between religious and non-religious personality types and the propensity to report religious experiences) is not based upon the rich literature demonstrating links between religiosity and temporal lobe epileptics (and, more broadly, temporal lobe foci).  This link has been repeatedly observed and is still observed in some populations. Instead, my theory is based on laboratory measurements of normal, non-epileptic people. I think it is important to emphasize that the research began and continues to be focused upon creativity and the factors that allow human beings to adapt to complex and ever changing environments and circumstances. Sensitivity, but without actual epilepsy, at the upper end of the continuum of temporal lobe lability is associated with remarkable creativity.

Many epileptics have had religious experiences, but only a very small minority of people reporting such experiences are epileptics.  Moreover, only a very small percent of all epileptics report such experiences. We can easily understand how the relative importance of religion in human cultures has given them a disproportionate prominence in the literature surrounding the study of the neurological aspects of religion and spirituality, i.e., the field of neurotheology.

The sensed presence is a primary feature of above-average temporal lobe sensitivity.  It has been given different labels that range from the Muses of the Ancient Greeks to the “spirit guides” of contemporary New Age religion and philosophy.  My working explanation is that the sensed presence is the left hemispheric awareness of the right hemispheric equivalent of the sense of self. We have demonstrated the direction effect across the two hemispheres and lobes by neuroimaging.

Goldensohn ES. Initiation and propagation of epileptogenic foci. In: JK Penry and DD Daly, editors. Advances in neurology. New York: Raven Press; 1975.

Matt Stead (et al.)  “Microseizures and the spatiotemporal scales of human partial epilepsy”  Brain. 2010 Sep; 133(9): 2789–2797.

Goldensohn ES., “Symptomatology of nonconvulsive seizures: ictal and postictal.” Epilepsia. 1983;24 Suppl 1:S5-21.

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: and
NOTE: This blog is hosted by a colleague.

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Religious belief is not an epileptic phenomena – Dr. Michael A Persinger

Is religiosity an epileptic phenomenon? (A Blog by Dr. M.A. Persinger)

Answer: The answer to the question, as stated, is “no”.  The microscopic connections between brain cells which are associated with certain patterns of behavior (These patterns are called personality in the vernacular) are altered by conditions within the temporal lobes that encourage frequent and very specific types of electrical patterns.  Only very extreme brief electrical activity that involves large volumes of the brain defines epilepsy.

Its important to differentiate three components: religious experiences, religious beliefs and religiosity (the propensity for interpreting events in terms of religious beliefs, as well as participating in religious rituals, showing reverence for religious symbols, etc.).  A religious experience will include perceptions that involve multiple areas but particularly the temporal lobes because they contain the amygdala which is involved with meaning and affect and the hippocampus, which is involved with memory.  However, like any other experiences, religious or spiritual events are encoded into verbal images. This involves or “recruits” the frontal portions of the brain.

Even when its subtle, the way a person labels the “cause” of a mystic experience, or what they attribute it to, is supplied by the person’s culture and learning history and this can have a significant effect on how they remember the experience hours to days later.  To offer a mundane example, people often hear words that upset them (for example, during arguments).  After the event has passed, they are very likely to speak of it referring to the words that made them angry or sad, and not a description of the discomfort they created.  The explanation supplants memories of the actual event.  This also happens with religious experiences.   The phenomena are recalled as instances and verifications of the themes in their religious beliefs.

The images associated with the words that we use to label a religious experience, without actively doing anything, strongly affect what we later remember as true.  A religious belief, like all beliefs, is a cognitive strategy.  Religious beliefs attempt to anticipate both events in the world, and our life experiences (including religious experiences) and organize their meaning. Religious belief is different from a religious experience.  A delusion differs from a belief to the extent that it affects the person’s explanations and perceptions of his or her own private world. Religiosity is the degree to which the experience infuses what the person perceives, thinks, and believes about the world and explains the Cosmos.  Delusions have implications about the person who has them, while religiosity includes beliefs about the entire universe, including its origins and eschatology.  Given that science also offers a cognitive strategy for anticipating events and interpreting their significance, maintaining a religious ideational framework (“belief system”) and its accompanying paradigms cannot be regarded as an epileptic phenomenon.

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: and 

NOTE:  This blog is hosted by a colleague.

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