Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dr. Persinger's God Helmet

Did Dr. Persinger create a near-death experience in a lab?

Wikipedia: The apparatus, placed on the head of an experimental subject, generates weak fluctuating (i.e. "complex") magnetic fields. These fields are approximately as strong as those generated by a land line telephone handset or an ordinary hair dryer, but far weaker than that of an ordinary fridge magnet. It is used extensively by Michael Persinger, a neuroscientist at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. Persinger has published extensively about the effects on the human brain of the "complex" magnetic fields generated by the God helmet and other similar devices. Many subjects have reported "mystical experiences and altered states" while wearing the God Helmet. Although demonstrated to journalists and documentarists, these effects await the publication of independent replications in formal peer-reviewed scientific journals. The only attempt at replication published in the scientific literature reported a failure to replicate Persinger's effects. Persinger claims the replication was flawed. The Swedish group disagrees. Persinger reports that at least 80 percent of his participants experience a presence beside them in the room, which ranges from a simple 'sensed presence' to visions of God. About one percent experienced God, while many more had less evocative, but still significant experiences of "another consciousness or sentient being". The God Helmet has received attention from the media and theologians because of the challenge it appears to present to traditional beliefs in God. Although only a small number (on the order of 1%) of the experimental subjects saw God in the laboratory,[self-published source?] their experiences can be interpreted as meaning that God is the subjective experience of an unusual kind of brain function. In contrast, most of the subjects had the experience of 'sensing' a 'presence'.

To some, this experiment verified that the God experience and near-death come from action in the temporal lobe. To others, this test is flawed, as people do not have the profound life changes and specific details others have during a near-death experience.

My issue with this test is that none of these people in the experiment had flat brainwave activity, but those who have had NDE's do. A famous documented case was Pam Reynolds, a woman who had to have her body taken down to 60 degrees and her brain and heart activity stopped for a "standstill" procedure that allowed doctors to go into her brain and repair an aneurysm.

Site: Pam reported that she felt herself "pop" outside her body and hover above the operating table. Then she watched the doctors working on her lifeless body for awhile. From her out-of-body position, she observed the doctor sawing into her skull with what looked to her like an electric toothbrush. Pam heard and reported later what the nurses in the operating room had said and exactly what was happening during the operation. At this time, every monitor attached to Pam's body registered "no life" whatsoever. At some point, Pam's consciousness floated out of the operating room and traveled down a tunnel which had a light at the end of it where her deceased relatives and friends were waiting including her long-dead grandmother. Pam's NDE ended when her deceased uncle led her back to her body for her to reentered it. Pam compared the feeling of reentering her dead body to "plunging into a pool of ice."

In this test, just because activating the temporal lobe can bring about sense of not being alone or seeing a light, does not mean that is the only time these sensations come about and the only way. That is a big jump in logic. I can be nauseous and want to throw up or someone can press the back of my throat and activate my gag reflex. Just because you can produce vomiting by gagging doesn't mean that there's a genuine cause, only a reflex being stimulated.

1 comment:

  1. Check out Robert Sawyer's Neanderthal Parallax for an interesting take on the implications of Persinger's work.