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Ghost or microseizure?

“Science has the answer to every question that can be asked.  However, science reserves the right to change that answer should additional data become available.” 

–Mary Roach, from her book Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife.

I’m currently reading a fascinating book by Mary Roach, called Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife.  Roach uses engaging prose for one thing, and she discusses many examples of how scientists have examined the scientific basis for life after death.  One chapter, that I found particularly interesting, deals with EMF and altered brain function.

The author visited the lab of Michael Persinger, a neuroscientist at the Laurentian University, in order to experience artificial paranormal experiences caused by controlled EMF exposure in what he calls his “Haunt Box” – a soundproof chamber fitted with a chair and a hefty EMF-emitting helmet.  

Persinger explains his theory on EMFs and “hauntings”, saying that exposure to electromagnetic fields lowers melatonin levels in the brain.  Melatonin is an anti-convulsive, so if you have less of it in your brain, your right temporal lobe may be more susceptible to tiny epileptic microseizures and the associated hallucinations, or feelings of “presences”.

Of the nearly one thousand test subjects who have experienced Persinger’s “haunt box” stimulation to their right temporal lobes, eighty percent have reported feeling a presence.  It is also true that people suffering from naturally occurring microseizures – such as patients with complex partial epilepsy – often experience hallucinations as well.

It’s a very interesting physiological explanation for the phenomenon of “ghost” encounters.  Most of us have heard about the link between EMF and paranormal experiences, but Mary Roach discusses a very detailed theory involving melatonin and altered brain function.  So, the next time you see a ghost, stop and think for a moment – you might be having a seizure instead.

Roach, Mary.  Spook : Science Tackles the Afterlife.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.  New York, N.Y. 

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4 Responses

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  1. Ed says

    I read that book last year. It was an excellent read, and surprisingly hilarious.

    That was indeed a very interesting chapter, and goes to show exactly what our brains are capable of making us imagine, and exactly how our senses cannot be trusted. It just reinforces the need for actual recorded evidence, and that no ‘personal experiences’ can truly be fully trusted.

  2. jessica0223 says

    I love Spook! I wrote a blog on ectoplasm that was inspired by the chapter in her book. I’m so glad someone else is enjoying this wonderful book. Great blog.
    .-= jessica0223´s last blog ..The Fun, Fake Ghosts of The Haunted Mansion =-.

  3. merricat says

    I really enjoyed this book when I read it a few years ago.

    Here is a little bit about a recent Haunt Box study:

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Tweets that mention New Post at Para-Blog: "Ghost or microseizure?" #ghost #ghosts #Paranormal -- linked to this post on June 3, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mommy D (Dinell) and Ninja Exorcists, Paranormal Boston. Paranormal Boston said: New Post at Para-Blog: "Ghost or microseizure?" #ghost #ghosts #Paranormal […]

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