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A Sideways Look at the Neurobiology of Psi: Precognition and Circadian Rhythms

A Sideways Look at the Neurobiology of Psi: Precognition and Circadian Rhythms

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Published by: David Luke on Sep 24, 2012
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NeuroQuantology | September 2012 | Volume 10 | Issue 3 | Page 580-590Luke D., A sideways look at the neurobiology of psiwww.neuroquantology.com580
Altered States of Consciousness
A Sideways Look at the Neurobiology of Psi:Precognition and Circadian Rhythms
David Luke*, Karolina Zychowicz, Olga Richterova,Inna Tjurina & Jelena Polonnikova
Theory suggests that the chemicals made in the pineal gland follow a circadian rhythm and may be important in the processesof sleeping and dreaming, and it is speculated that these chemicals may also be important in the mediation of spontaneousmystical and visionary states, and in the mediation of psi (clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition or psychokinesis). Theabundance of one such chemical, melatonin, is known to fluctuate cyclically, nevertheless very little research has beenconducted to test whether peak melatonin periods (3am) are more conducive to psi than lower melatonin periods (e.g., 8am).The present study tested for precognition among ten participants across ten nights each, both during the night and first thing inthe morning. Two types of test were used on each occasion: A 10-trial forced-choice precognition task and a single-trial free-recall dream precognition task, and it was predicted that dream psi performance would be better than forced-choice psi,particularly in the middle of the night when compared to performance in the morning. A number of other factors were alsomonitored for the possible relationship to psi performance, including belief in psi, belief in the paranormal and openness toexperience. Both precognition task overall sample scores were non-significant, but dream precognition performance wassignificantly better at 3am than 8am, whereas the reverse was true for forced choice task, as predicted, although theinteraction was not significant. None of the personality measures were found to correlate with precognition task performance,as might be expected with such a small sample size. The findings point to the importance of exploring circadian cycles in theresearch of psi, and offer tentative support for the psi-pineal gland hypothesis.
Key Words: 
dream precognition, melatonin, pineal, DMT, circadian rhythms
NeuroQuantology 2012; 3: 580-590
Research has shown that 33-68% of spontaneous cases of extra sensory perception(ESP, i.e. telepathy, clairvoyance orprecognition) are reported to occur duringdreams (Van de Castle, 1977) andexperimental free-response dream ESPresearch has tended to produce positive resultsoverall (for a review see Sherwood & Roe,2003). Much of the experimental dream ESPresearch was conducted at the laboratory of 
Corresponding author: David LukeAddress: Department of Psychology and Counselling, University of Greenwich, London, SE9 2UG Phone:+ 44 (0)208 3319957 
 d.p.luke@gre.ac.ukReceived June 30, 2012. Revised Sept 20, 2012.Accepted Sept 21, 2012.
ISSN 1303-5150
the Maimonides Medical Centre in Brooklynduring the 1960s and 1970s (Ullman, Kripnner& Vaughan, 2002), although once the dreamESP programme there ended most of thefollowing research tended to use the moreeconomical method of having participantsdream at home and then come to the lab totake part in the judging phase of theexperiment, with almost as good results(Sherwood & Roe, 2003). Typically in this laterresearch the participant’s dream would becompared to four images or video clips and theone most similar to the dream content would be selected as the predicted target, orsometimes all the images/clips would beranked, and if the participant predicted thecorrect target or ranked it higher than theothers then the trial would be considered a hit.
NeuroQuantology | September 2012 | Volume 10 | Issue 3 | Page 580-590Luke D., A sideways look at the neurobiology of psiwww.neuroquantology.com581
In some studies participants would share theirdreams of the previous night and take part inthe target prediction process as a group (e.g.,Roe, Sherwood, Luke & Farrell, 2002). Overallthe participants tended to select the actualtarget significantly more often than chance,providing support in favour of the hypothesisthat psi (an umbrella term for ESP orpsychokinesis) can manifest through dreams(Sherwood & Roe, 2003).Most of this fairly extensive dream ESPresearch, however, has tended to overlook neurobiological and neurochemical factors,despite speculations by Roney-Dougal (1989,2001) that dream ESP is mediated by thepineal gland neurochemicals supposedly responsible for sleeping and dreaming:melatonin and N,N-dimethyltryptamine(DMT) (see Callaway, 1988, Luke & Friedman,2010). Despite Persinger (1988, 1993)originally speculating that it is, researcherssuggest that melatonin is
directly implicated in psi effects (e.g., Roney-Dougal,2001), most likely due to its inactivity as apsychoactive substance (see Shulgin &Shulgin, 1997) and lack of visionary qualities.However, melatonin's life cycle in the brainmay be linked to the production of the highly potent vision-inducing endogenouspsychedelic, DMT, a substance which isconsidered as a more likely neurobiologicalparanormal mediator (e.g., Hill & Persinger,2003; Roney-Dougal, 2001; Strassman, 2001)due to its more profound psychoactiveproperties. Made in the pineal gland,melatonin follows a relatively well understoodcircadian cycle (Stehle
et al 
., 2011) and it isconverted from serotonin at night, in much thesame way that DMT supposedly is (see Luke &Friedman, 2010; Strassman, 2001), and sopresumably DMT follows the same circadiancycle as melatonin in the brain, although theevidence for this is not as yet forthcoming (butfor a discussion see Barker, McIlhiney &Strassman, 2012). Therefore if psi can bedemonstrated to fluctuate with circadianrhythms, particularly melatonin levels, thenthis may offer indirect support for the psi-DMT hypothesis, though such evidence would be merely supportive not conclusive, of course. Although there is a dearth of experimental research on the subject, supportfor the psi-DMT hypothesis comes from survey research and ethnographic accounts of paranormal experiences from those who haveingested DMT (see Luke, 2008, 2011b; Luke &Kittenis, 2005). However, some tentativeexperimental support for the notion that ESPperformance is related to circadian pinealgland activity is evident from research thatdemonstrated that prepubescent childrenscore better on forced-choice ESP tests at 3am, when the pineal gland’s nocturnal chemicals(melatonin, etc) are at peak concentrations inthe brain, rather than at 9pm when they aretypically lower by a magnitude of 5-10 times(Satyanarayana, Rao, & Vijayalakshmi, 1993). Aside from the predominance of psiexperiences that occur in dreams (Van deCastle, 1977), experiences of crisis apparitionsand of a sensed presence are also morecommon during the period between 2am and4am (Persinger, 1993, 2001) than at othertimes, as supported by folk concepts of thistime (3-4am) as “the witching hour” and “thegraveyard shift”, and coinciding with theapproximate 3am peak melatonin period, which gives good reason to explore the notionthat DMT levels coincide as well.Use of DMT in its pure form isextremely fast acting and short lived, soexperiences with it are brief and intense anddon't necessarily lend themselves well to thereporting of psi
 per se
, nevertheless there issome promising phenomological researchemerging from a plant-based DMT-containing Amazonian jungle decoction called
that is receiving growing academic attention.Used widely in the Amazon basin and acrossmuch of South America, ayahuasca, whichmeans “the vine of the spirits” in Quechua, isusually a combination of at least two plants,one of which contains
-carbolines / MAOinhibitors (e.g., harmala, harmaline – oncecalled telepathine) – such as the ayahuasca vine (
 Banisteriopsis caapi 
) – and the other of  which contains DMT, such as the chacruna bush (
 Psychotria viridis
) (Shanon, 2002).Both
-carbolines / MAO inhibitors (e.g.,pinoline) and DMT are also thought to bemade in the pineal gland (Strassman, 2001)and have been considered to regulate dreamsin much the same way that the melatoninmade in the pineal gland regulates sleep(Callaway, 1988), indicating that ayahuascapotentially mimics the nocturnal chemistry of the pineal gland, whereas the pineal gland may make
– ayahuasca from within(Callaway, 1995).In this sense, whereas the pinealsupposedly mediates sleeping dreamexperiences (via melatonin and DMT,
NeuroQuantology | September 2012 | Volume 10 | Issue 3 | Page 580-590Luke D., A sideways look at the neurobiology of psiwww.neuroquantology.com582
respectively), ayahuasca produces a kind of  waking dream experience (Luke, 2012).Beyond theoretical speculation, however, thereis little evidence to support the hypothesis thatdreams are mediated by DMT, other than theendogenous nature of DMT, its visionary qualities (Callaway, 1988) and its possiblepineal gland genesis (Strassman, 2001).Furthermore, although both states are visionary and lend themselves well toparanormal experiences (though notnecessarily genuine paranormal phenomena –see Luke 2008 for a review), dreams differfrom DMT/ayahuasca experiences in distinct ways, such that dreams do not generally involve colourful geometric percepts, althoughhypnogogia does (Mavromatis, 1987).Furthermore, unlike in (non-lucid) dreams,rational thinking concerning supposedly impossible phenomena (e.g., discarnate beings) is actually likely under the influence of ayahuasca, although such events are alsotypically hyperreal (Luke, 2011b). Currently,however, a thorough comparativephenomenological analysis of the DMT anddream experience is lacking.Given the difficulty in measuring andresearching DMT directly (Barker, McIlhiney & Strassman, 2012), the current study indirectly investigates Roney-Dougal's (2001)DMT-pineal-psi aggregate hypothesis further by seeking to detect differences in dream ESPperformance between 3am and 8am, whenmelatonin (and perhaps DMT) levels differconsiderably, and it is predicted that dreamprecognition scores will be better at 3amrather than 8am. Free-response testingmethods (whereby the targets are unknown tothe participant and relatively unlimited inform, so guesses are open-ended) are thoughtto be more conducive than forced-choice tasks(where there are a fixed number of possibletarget identities, as with zener cards) to theincreased mental imagery of altered states of consciousness (ASC), such as dreams, and arethe method of choice in experimental psi-ASCresearch (Luke, 2011a). For this reason it isexpected that the neurochemical factorshypothetically related to dream precognition(such as increased vividness or imagery of thedream) will not necessarily be advantageous tonon-dream precognition and so a forcedchoice task unrelated to the participant’sdream is expected to be less successful ineliciting a precognition effect than a free-response dream task at 3am. Furthermore, inline with previous precognition research(Luke, Delanoy & Sherwood, 2008; Luke &Morin, 2009: Luke, Roe & Davison, 2008)positive predictors of precognition task successare sought, in an exploratory fashion, from various individual differences measures:sheep-goat belief in psi, paranormal belief, andopenness to experience.H1 – Free-response dream precognition scores will be significantly better than chance.H2 – Dream precognition test scores will besignificantly higher at 3am than at 8am.H3 – Forced-choice precognition scores will besignificantly better than chance expectation.H4 – There will be a significant interaction between time of day and psi task, with free-response task performance exceeding that of forced-choice task performance specifically at3am, but not 8am.
 An experimental 2x2 (psi task x time of day)repeated-measures design, measuringperformance on both a free-response andforced choice precognition task in the middleof the night (3am) and in the morning (8am).
Selected from a pool of volunteers on the basisof reported dream recall ability, lack of difficulty sleeping again once woken, and lack of concern about being woken during thenight, 12 participants took part in 10experimental sessions (a session is both a 3amand 8am trial on the same morning) and 1pilot session and were paid £10 per session(£110 total per participant for completion of the study). It was predetermined that only 10participants were required but two extra wererecruited to cover likely attrition, and in theend only 10 participants completed all trials,and only data from these participants wereused in the analysis. All participants werestudents on a parapsychology course at theUniversity of Greenwich, and of the final 10participants completing (age, mean = 24.5, SD= 3.3) only one was male, however theimbalanced gender ratio represents the actualratio of the psychology student body at thisinstitution, and in any case, beyond childhood,females consistently recall more dreams than

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