It’s my belief that psychics and mediums are scammers on a small scale like politicians are on a large scale. They promise things that analytical evidence cannot possibly dictate, the worth of their intake is greater than that which they output, and, more often than not, you have to use them multiple times in order for the full extent of their powers to be shown. It’s all mind over matter with both professions, and the brain actually reflects the “mind” aspect, according to researchers from Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. They studied the brains of mediums during the dissociative state achieved in their practice of psychography, which is essentially writing messages from dead people.
The journal PLOS ONE reports the researchers’ study, in which 10 mediums were injected with a radioactive tracer and scanned using SPECT (single-photon emission-computed tomography). The mediums’ experience ranged from 15 to 47 years, with up to 18 automatic writing experiences a month, and were separated into expert and non-expert groups. Each medium’s brain activity was recorded while writing something normally and then while in their trance. To the more science minded, this may be a question that needs no explanation, but research into cerebral responses in mediums isn’t exactly a heavily studied subject. That should now change, according to Andrew Newberg, MD, director of Research at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, and a nationally known expert on spirituality.
Were the results everything I expected them to be? Not at all. The more experienced of the bunch, while in a trance state, showed decreased activity in the left hippocampus, right superior temoral gyrus, and the frontal lobe regions of the left anterior cingulate and right precentral gyrus, as when compared to the writing in an unaltered state. Reasoning, movement, language generation, and problem solving are all associated with the frontal lobe regions. This is almost counter-intuitive to the higher complexity scores found in the psychographed writing, which usually indicates more action in those frontal lobes. The subjects of the writing included ethical principles, spirituality’s importance, and bringing together science and spirituality. That doesn’t sound rehearsed at all.
But my scoffs can’t change the fact that the less-experienced group achieved the exact opposite of the pros in brain activity when the results came back. There was an increase in activity in the frontal regions during psychography, which may be a result of a more active attempt at achieving the trance, which the professionals have fully trained their bodies to slip into with relative ease.
One theory about these results is that areas of the brain associated with the automatic writing are made more disinhibited, such as when one has a tequila weekend, as the complexity can improve. Take a listen to almost any rock album from the ’70s for evidence on what a lack of inhibitions can allow you to come up with. The lowered activity in the frontal lobe is also associated with improvisational music, but think more jazz than arena rock. Maybe one of these mediums can channel Miles Davis and we can ask him what he thinks about all this.