Sensed Presence and Susceptibility

Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence: possible intercalation between the hemispheres induced by complex magnetic fields.

This experiment was designed to test the hypothesis that the sensed presence, the feeling of a proximal sentient being, can be evoked within the laboratory. Under double-blind conditions, 48 university men and women were exposed to weak (100 nT to 1 muT), complex, pulsed magnetic fields that were applied primarily over the right temporoparietal region, primarily over the left temporoparietal region, or equally across both hemispheres (one treatment per group) for 20 minutes while wearing opaque goggles in a very quiet room. A fourth group was exposed to a sham-field condition. Subjects who received greater stimulation over the right hemisphere or equal stimulation across both hemispheres reported more frequent incidences of presences, fears, and odd smells than did the subjects who received greater stimulation over the left hemisphere or who were exposed to the sham-field condition. The results suggest that the sensed presence is subject to experimental manipulation. This experimental procedure could be employed to explore the idea that the experience of a sensed presence is a resident property of the human brain and may be the fundamental source for phenomena attributed to visitations by gods, spirits, and other ephemeral phenomena.

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2002 Aug;190(8):533-41.

Sensed presence and mystical experiences are predicted by suggestibility, not by the application of transcranial weak complex magnetic fields.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) with weak (micro Tesla) complex waveform fields have been claimed to evoke the sensed presence of a sentient being in up to 80% in the general population. These findings have had a questionable neurophysiological foundation as the fields are approximately six orders of magnitude weaker than ordinary TMS fields. Also, no independent replication has been reported. To replicate and extend previous findings, we performed a double-blind experiment (N=89), with a sham-field control group. Personality characteristics indicating suggestibility (absorption, signs of abnormal temporal lobe activity, and a "new age"-lifestyle orientation) were used as predictors. Sensed presence, mystical, and other somatosensory experiences previously reported from the magnetic field stimulation were outcome measures. We found no evidence for any effects of the magnetic fields, neither in the entire group, nor in individuals high in suggestibility. Because the personality characteristics significantly predicted outcomes, suggestibility may account for previously reported effects. Our results strongly question the earlier claims of experiential effects of weak magnetic fields.

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.

If all experiences are generated by brain activity, then experiences of God and spirits should also be produced by the appropriate cerebral stimulation. During the last 15 years experiments have shown that the sensed presence of a "Sentient Being" can be reliably evoked by very specific temporal patterns of weak

Int J Neurosci. 2006 Sep;116(9):1079-96.

Red light facilitates the sensed presence elicited by application of weak, burst-firing magnetic fields over the temporal lobes.

To test the hypothesis that the wavelength (color) of ambient lightning should modulate experiences of a sensed presence when the right hemisphere was stimulated by weak, burst-firing magnetic fields, volunteers were exposed for 30 min to this condition or to a sham field while they sat (eyes opened) in either dim red, green, or white light. Subjects exposed to the magnetic field reported significantly more visual sensations along the left side in red light and along the right side in green light. The significant interaction between ambient color and the field treatment was due to the marked increase in experiences of dizziness, sensed presence, "ego-alien" thoughts, and detachment from the body and "being somewhere else" for subjects exposed to the magnetic field while sitting in red light. The concurrence of entoptic images experienced within the upper left peripheral visual field and the sensed presence supported the hypothesis that both are associated with the intrusion of right hemispheric processes into left hemispheric awareness.

Int J Neurosci. 2009;119(1):68-75.

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