The most recent edition of PLOS ONE documents a new study dedicated to learning about psychic mediums. PLOS ONE is an open-source online medical journal known for its extensive research. They are focusing on uncovering brain activity in mediums in the process of “psychography.”
Psychography, also known as automatic writing, is a method mediums use to communicate the messages sent from the spirits of the deceased to loved ones. They enter a different state and begin to free-write messages as they receive them. They then show these writings to the person seeking contact to see what the spirit wants to say. The study occurred in Brazil and included researchers from the University of Sao Paulo and Thomas Jefferson University.
During their psychography sessions, they engaged in this study by examining Brazilian mediums’ CBF (cerebral blood flow). The researchers discovered that their brain activity lowered significantly when the mediums entered the dissociative state necessary for psychography. The study involved five mediums highly experienced in psychography and five less experienced in it. The researchers injected a radioactive tracer into the ten selected mediums to collect the data from the mediums.
The tracer enabled the researchers to actively see the mediums’ brain activity while they were doing regular writing and when they were doing psychographic writing. The researchers used “single-photon emission computerized tomography” to gather and calculate their brain activity, ” also known as SPECT. With SPECT, they observed the mediums’ brains while both active and inactive during the experiment.
What Using SPECT Taught The Researchers
“Spiritual experiences affect cerebral activity- this is known. But, the cerebral response to mediumship, the practice of supposedly being in communication with or under the control of the spirit of a deceased person, has received little scientific attention. From now on, new studies should be conducted,” said MD Andrew Newberg. Newberg is the director of Research at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine.
He is also nationally known as an expert on spirituality and the brain. He and Julio F. P. Peres, a Clinical Psychologist Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Behavior at the University of Sao Paulo, collaborated on this project. All the mediums in the study had anywhere from 15 to 47 years’ worth of experience practicing psychography. They also each performed it at least 18 times a month.
They were all right-handed, evaluated for their mental health, and found to be in satisfactory condition. None of them were using any psychiatric drugs. They each reported being successful at achieving the trance-like state necessary for psychography. They also stated that they were in a normal state of consciousness while performing the regular writing control part of the study.
The outcome of the data collected from the experienced and less experienced medium groups differed significantly. Researchers discovered that the CBF of the more experienced group was at a lower activity level during psychography. In contrast, the CBF during psychography of the less experienced group showed a higher degree of activity in the same area observed.
Outcome Of The Research
The areas that SPECT zeroed in on were during the mediums’ non-trance writing and psychographic writing as follow:
- Left hippocampus (the limbic system)
- Right superior temporal gyrus
- Frontal lobe regions of the left anterior cingulated
- Right precentral gyrus
They wanted to compare the activity level between the brain areas during both writing sessions. The researchers focused on these areas because of their known links to problem-solving, movement, planning, reasoning, and generating language. The outcome showed that the more experienced mediums had lower brain activity in these regions during psychography. This means they are less conscious, less self-aware, and less focused during the psychography session.
The fact that the less experienced mediums had higher levels of brain activity during psychography tells the researchers that they were more focused and conscious during the act. That’s perhaps due to a subconscious attempt to “get it right” and wanting to be good at the art of psychography. The researchers believe that since all the mediums had been deemed clear of mental disorders, the data collected supports the evidence that dissociative experiences are common in the general population.
Just because a person experiences them doesn’t mean they have a mental disorder, especially when experienced in a spiritual or religious atmosphere. However, more research is necessary to address criteria distinguishing between healthy and pathological dissociative expression as it applies to mediums.
The Study Was More Involved Than Expected
Along with observing the CBT of the mediums during psychography, the researchers also closely observed the actual writing that the mediums did during trance-like and controlled writing states. They learned that the complexity scores for the trance-induced writing were far higher than the controlled writing. The higher complexity scores belonged to the experienced mediums, while the lower complexity scores belonged to the less experienced group.
This discovery is significant because the researchers assumed their scores would be lower since the more experienced group had less brain activity during the act. Vice versa, they believed that since the less experienced group had higher brain activity, their scores would be higher. The subject of the writings during the psychography session revolved around the importance of spirituality, ethical principles, and the bringing together of spirituality and science.
The researchers have developed several hypotheses to explain the data collected. The first one is that as the frontal lobe activity decreases, the areas of the brain that support mediumistic writing are less inhibited. This effect makes the overall complexity increase as well. This disinhibition is similar to studying how one would act under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Newberg states, “while the exact reason is at this point elusive, our study suggests there are neurophysiological correlates of this state. This first-ever neuroscientific evaluation of mediumistic trance states reveals some exciting data. It improves our understanding of the mind/brain relationship. These findings deserve further investigation both in terms of replication and explanatory hypotheses.”