In Search of God - Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
This sense of unity with the Universe isn't the only characteristic of intense religious experiences. They also carry a hefty emotional charge, a feeling of awe and deep significance. Neuroscientists generally agree that this sensation originates…
This sense of unity with the Universe isn't the only characteristic of intense religious experiences. They also carry a hefty emotional charge, a feeling of awe and deep significance. Neuroscientists generally agree that this sensation originates in a region of the brain distinct from the parietal lobe: the "emotional brain", or limbic system, lying deep within the temporal lobes on the sides of the brain.
The limbic system is a part of the brain that dates from way back in our evolution. Its function nowadays is to monitor our experiences and label especially significant events, such as the sight of your child's face, with emotional tags to say "this is important". During an intense religious experience, researchers believe that the limbic system becomes unusually active, tagging everything with special significance.
This could explain why people who have had such experiences find them so difficult to describe to others. "The contents of the experience--the visual components, the sensory components--are just the same as everyone experiences all the time," says Jeffrey Saver, a neurologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Instead, the temporolimbic system is stamping these moments as being intensely important to the individual, as being characterised by great joy and harmony. When the experience is reported to someone else, only the contents and the sense that it's different can be communicated. The visceral sensation can't."
For several years, Persinger has been using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation to induce all sorts of surreal experiences in ordinary people (New Scientist, 19 November 1994, p 29). Through trial and error and a bit of educated guesswork, he's found that a weak magnetic field--1 microtesla, which is roughly that generated by a computer monitor--rotating anticlockwise in a complex pattern about the temporal lobes will cause four out of five people to feel a spectral presence in the room with them.
Download or Print
Add To Collection
This is a private document.
TIP Press Ctrl-F⌘F to search anywhere in the document.
Read without ads and support Scribd by becoming a Scribd Premium Reader.