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MRI and Sensory Isolation - Richards 2005

MRI and Sensory Isolation - Richards 2005

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THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINEVolume 11, Number 6, 2005, pp. 955–963©Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Replicable Functional Magnetic Resonance ImagingEvidence of Correlated Brain Signals BetweenPhysically and Sensory Isolated Subjects
Previous electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) ex-periments have suggested that correlated neural signals may be detected in the brains of individuals who arephysically and sensorily isolated from each other. Functional MRI and EEG methods were used in the presentstudy in an attempt to replicate these findings.
Subjects were electrically and magnetically shielded because of the characteristic surround-ings of the scanner room. During the experiment, the nonstimulated subject was placed in the scanner with sen-sory isolating goggles covering the subject’s eyes. The stimulated subject was placed 30 feet away and sat in frontof a video monitor that presented an alternating schedule of six stimulus-on/stimulus-off conditions. The stimu-lus-on condition consisted of a flickering checkerboard pattern whereas the stimulus-off condition consisted of astatic checkerboard. Stimulus-on/-off conditions were presented in the sequence on/off/on/off/on/off. The dura-tion of these intervals was randomly assigned but consistently provided a total of 150 seconds of flicker and 150seconds of static. Sessions were repeated twice to assess possible replication of the phenomenon.
Outcome measures:
Changes in fMRI brain activation (relating to blood oxygenation) and EEG signals weremeasured in the nonstimulated subjects. Changes occurring during stimulus-on conditions were statisticallycompared to changes occurring during the stimulus-off conditions.
Statistically significant changes in fMRI brain activation and EEG signals were observed when com-paring the stimulus-on condition to the stimulus-off condition in nonstimulated subjects (
0.001, correctedfor multiple comparisons). For fMRI, these changes were observed in visual brain areas 18 and 19 (Brodmannareas). One of the subjects replicated the results.
These data replicate previous findings suggesting that correlated neural signals may be de-tected by fMRI and EEG in the brains of subjects who are physically and sensorily isolated from each other.
University of Washington, Seattle, WA.
Bastyr University, Kenmore, WA.
tudies reporting the existence of anomalous correlatedbrain signals in pairs of physically and sensory isolatedhumans have appeared scarcely but consistently in the sci-entific literature for the last 40 years.
The first knownreport published by a biomedical journal of correlated sig-nals between distant brains appeared in
in 1965.
Inthis study, simultaneous EEG was recorded from 15 pairsof monozygotic human twins who were physically and sen-sorily isolated from each other. The study reported that EEG
rhythms were elicited in one member of the pair as a re-
sult of evoking these rhythms in the other member, who wasseparated by 6 meters in a different room. This phenome-non, which the authors called “extrasensory induction,” oc-curred in two of 15 pairs of twins tested and only when pairsof related twins were tested together.
In 1994 Grinberg-Zylberbaum et al.
reported that visual evoked potentials inone human brain produced by photostimulation to a singlemember of the pair could induce similar evoked potentialsin the other member who was located 14.5 meters away inan electrically shielded room. Since 2000, at least three in-dependent research groups have attempted to replicate theseresults. In these studies, simultaneous EEG was recorded inphysically and sensorily isolated pairs in which one of themembers was visually stimulated at random intervals.
These three groups reported that correlated brain signalswere observed in 10%–20% of the pairs.
One of theseEEG studies, carried out by the Bastyr University/Univer-sity of Washington Consciousness Science Laboratory,
re-vealed “bursts” of brain activation in the nonstimulated sub- jects that were correlated (
0.01) with the “stimulus-on”condition of their stimulated partners in five of the 30 pairs.Four of the five significant pairs were invited to a replica-tion experiment. Only one of those four pairs was able toreplicate the results.
This pair was then invited to partici-pate in the fMRI experiment described here.Results from a pilot experiment to test the feasibility of using an EEG experimental design for an fMRI experimenthave been published elsewhere.
This previous case reportindicated that an increase in blood oxygenation significantat the
0.001 level was observed in the visual cortex of the nonstimulated subject, which was correlated to the stim-ulus-on condition of the stimulated partner. No such signalwas observed when the stimulated partner was presentedwith the stimulus-off condition or when the subjects reversedtheir roles.
The experiment described below represents asecond attempt to investigate the use of fMRI technology toinvestigate this phenomenon.
Two (2) healthy human subjects (CW and DW, subjectidentification only, not name initials) participated in ourfMRI experiment. Subject CW was a 26-year-old white man.Subject DW was a 29-year-old white woman. The subjectshad known each other for 6 years and had participated as apair in a previous EEG experiment.
As previously dis-cussed, subjects were selected because they were able toreplicate statistically significant results in the EEG study.
 fMRI experimental design and set-up
The experimental set-up was identical to that used in aprevious fMRI study
except for minor improvementsadded to respond to reviewers’ concerns, such as the inclu-sion of a replication trial and a physical barrier to achievecomplete optical isolation between the control room and thescanner area. The experimental protocol is briefly describedbelow.
 fMRI experimental procedure
During the first experimental session Subject DW wasdesignated as the nonstimulated subject and was placed inthe MRI scanner, whereas Subject CW was designated asthe stimulated subject and was placed in the scanner’s con-trol room 10 meters away from his partner. A diagram of the experimental set-up has been previously published.
The scanner room was electromagnetic field (EMF) shieldedand therefore the two subjects were completely EMFshielded from one another. Each experimental session con-sisted of two trials: Trial 1 and Trial 2 (Replication). Afterthe completion of the first experimental session, the subjectsswitched positions. Therefore, during the second experi-mental session subject CW was placed in the scanner (non-stimulated subject) while subject DW stayed in the controlroom (stimulated subject) and two other trials were recorded.The nonstimulated subject was optically isolated from thecontrol room and from the stimulated subject by two means:(1) goggles were placed that covered the visual fields of thenonstimulated subject’s eyes, and (2) a black cardboardpanel was added to the control room window to avoid anypossible sensory leakage into the scanner area. The goggleswere connected via high-resolution fiberoptic cables to two“Infocus” projectors (LP435z, Infocus, Wilsonville, OR),which were in turn connected to a personal computer.
Stimulus conditions
The stimulated subject was presented with an alternat-ing schedule of six stimulus-on/stimulus-off conditions. Thestimulus-on condition consisted of an 8
8 black-and-whitecheckerboard (0.12 cycles/degree) reversal stimuli presentedat a rate of 6 Hz using Psyscope software (version 1.2.2,Cohen, MacWhinney, Flatt, Provost, Pittsburgh, PA). Thestimulus-off condition consisted of a static fixation cross.The stimulus was presented on a 13-inch computer screenlocated 50 cm away from the subject’s eyes. The nonstim-ulated subject was presented through the goggles with anunchanging static image that was considered “relaxing” orappealing to the subject. The image was chosen by the sub- ject right before starting the experiment from a standard im-age catalog. This static image was introduced to act as a“built-in” control condition (i.e., the static image would nottrigger visual evoked potentials).The stimulated subject was instructed to fixate his or hereyes at the center of the video monitor screen and to attempt“sending an image or thought to his/her partner.” The non-stimulated subject was instructed to watch the static imagepresented through goggles and to focus on feeling “con-nected” to his or her partner while “keeping open to receiveany image or thought from him/her.”
 Data collection
The start of the stimulated subject’s stimuli was syn-chronized to the start of the fMRI scan. Data were recordedduring two trials for each of the subjects when acting as thenonstimulated partner. Each of the two trials rendered a to-tal of 300 seconds of data. The 300 seconds of data acqui-sition yielded 100 sequentially collected brain volumes of which 50 (150 seconds) were collected during the stimulus-on condition (flicker) and 50 were collected during the stim-ulus-off condition (static). As in the previous experiment,the static flickering stimuli were alternated and presented invariable-length blocks ranging in duration from 18 to 33 sec-onds. For the stimulated subject, each experimental sessionbegan with a static condition. The start time of the staticcondition of the stimulated subject with respect to the non-stimulated subject’s fMRI acquisition start time was ran-domly varied from 8.3 to 33 seconds.
 fMRI scan acquisition
Blood oxygen level–dependent (BOLD) functional MRIscans were performed using echo planar images (EPI) toidentify activation sites. Structural and functional MR imag-ing was performed on a 1.5 Tesla MR imaging system (ver-sion 5.8, General Electric, Waukesha, WI). Scanning in-cluded a 21-slice axial (“repetition time” (TR)/”echo time”(TE) 200/2.2 mseconds, fast spoiled gradient echo pulse se-quence; 6 mm thick with 1 mm gap; 256
256 matrix).These anatomical series were followed by an fMRI seriesusing two-dimensional gradient echo echoplanar pulse se-quence (TR/TE 3000/50 mseconds, 21 slices; 6 mm thick with 1-mm gap, 64
64 matrix, 100 volumes total; time
300 seconds). An additional three-dimensional, 124-sliceanatomical MRI scan was performed with 1.4-mm sagittalslices using a three-dimensional fast spoiled gradient echopulse sequence. Imaging parameters included a TR/TE of 11/2.2 mseconds, flip angle of 25 degrees, and a field of view was 24 cm (acquisition time was 4:36 minutes).
 Image processing
Functional MRI scans were analyzed using BrainVoyager(version 4.8, Brain Innovation BV, Maastricht, The Nether-lands). The data were motion corrected in three dimensions,smoothed in the spatial domain with a 4-mm Gaussian fil-ter, smoothed in the temporal domain with a 4-second Gauss-ian filter, and linearly detrended. A general linear model re-gression (GLM) was used to generate statistical
-value mapsbased on the contrast between the “flicker-on” versus the“flicker-off” conditions. The expected response to changesin stimulation (i.e., stimulus-on versus stimulus-off) is knownto follow the hemodynamic delay curve shown in Figures1B, 2B, 3B,and 4B. The statistical process was used to de-termine the extent to which the observed MR responses werepredicted by this model. A “goodness of fit” statistic (r
) in-dicated the degree of fit between the hemodynamic modeland the actual brain activity time course recording during300-second fMRI scans. Both positive and negative
-coef-ficients can result. A positive
results when the fMRI sig-nal positively correlates with the hemodynamic visual stim-ulus–brain response model. Negative
-coefficients result if the brain signal negatively correlates with the model.The final display of fMRI superimposed on the structuralMRI highlights only those areas of the brain in red that have
test values
4.4 corresponding to
values (Bonferroni cor-rected for masked 30,000 brain region elements)
0.01. Thenonstimulated subject’s activation map and three-dimen-sional structural MRI were converted to standard stereotaxicspace of Talairach and Tournoux.
Stimulation typically en-ergizes highly localized sites within the brain. The softwareexamines brain regions within the mask and highlights onlythose brain areas in which the metabolic brain signal fitswell with the model of stimulus presentation.
 EEG methods used with same subjects
Subjects CW and DW also participated in a similar ex-periment using EEG (separately from the fMRI experiment).Briefly, two EEG systems (Lexicor, [Boulder, CO] Neu-rosearch-24) were combined to measure simultaneously thecortical EEG potentials from stimulated and nonstimulatedsubjects. Subjects were placed in different rooms separatedby a distance of 30 feet. EEG was acquired using standard19-channel Electrocap International (Eaton, OH) 10/20 elec-trode placements. Both Lexicor EEG systems were cali-brated for the following parameters: visual evoked potential(VEP) mode, 512 points-per-second sampling rate; high-pass filter off; reversal of checkerboard once per second; 64seconds per condition; four different conditions consistingof two flicker (on) and two static (off). Pattern reversal VEPstriggered by a flickering checkerboard pattern were recordedfrom O1 and O2 electrodes. The stimulus consisted of black-and-white checkerboard presented on a video monitor screenplaced 50 cm from the subject, delivering checks of 10 pix-els per cycle and 2.15 cycles per degree that reversed posi-tion at the rate of 0.5 Hz. Eye fixation was directed to thecenter of the screen where a red dot was placed. The EEGdata for the nonstimulated subject was resorted again basedon the exact sender’s flicker timing. EEG
power was cal-culated for each 1 second epoch by Fourier transforming theEEG signal and integrating the EEG spectral power from 8to 13 Hz. A Monte-Carlo randomization technique was usedto compare
power values between the sender’s flicker con-dition and the sender’s static conditions.
 EEG results
While acting as the nonstimulated partner, subject CWshowed significantly lower alpha power for session 1 dur-ing the partner’s stimulus on-condition flicker stimuli (

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