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Edge Science Magazine No 6 Jan--March 2011

Edge Science Magazine No 6 Jan--March 2011

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E
dge
S
cience
Current Research and Insights
Number 6 January–March 2011
A publication o theSociety or Scientifc Exploration
SPECIAL ISSUE
Hear ts Minds
Speaking rom the HeartMind o the PlaceboReal Drugs orImaginary Diseases
 
CONTENTS
EdgeScience #6
January–March 2011
EdgeScience is a quarterly magazine.Print copies are available fromedgescience.magcloud.com.For further information, see edgescience.orgEmail: edgescience@gmail.com
Why EdgeScience?
Because, contrary to publicperception, scientic nowledge is still full ofunnowns. What remains to be discovered — whatwe don’t now — very liely dwarfs what we donow. And what we thin we now may not beentirely correct or fully understood. Anomalies, whichresearchers tend to sweep under the rug, should beactively pursued as clues to potential breathroughsand new directions in science.PBSE: The Society for Scientic ExplorationET: Patric uyghe ASSATE ETS: ic Blasband,ominique SurelBk EEW ET: P.. MoncreifTBTS: enry Bauer, Jim Schnabel,kenneth Smith, ominique Surel, Floco TausinES: Smythtype esign
The Society or Scientifc Exploration
(SSE)is a professional organization of scientists andscholars who study unusual and unexplainedphenomena. The primary goal of the Society is toprovide a professional forum for presentations,criticism, and debate concerning topics which arefor various reasons ignored or studied inadequatelywithin mainstream science. A secondary goal is topromote improved understanding of those factorsthat unnecessarily limit the scope of scienticinquiry, such as sociological constraints, restrictiveworld views, hidden theoretical assumptions,and the temptation to convert prevailing theoryinto prevailing dogma. Topics under investigationcover a wide spectrum. At one end are apparentanomalies in well established disciplines. At theother, we nd paradoxical phenomena that belongto no established discipline and therefore mayoffer the greatest potential for scientic advanceand the expansion of human nowledge. TheSSE was founded in 1982 and has approximately800 members in 45 countries worldwide. TheSociety also publishes the peer-reviewed
Journal o Scientifc Exploration,
and holds annualmeetings in the .S. and biennial meetings inEurope. Associate and student membershipsare available to the public.To join the Society,or for more information, visit the website atscienticexploration.org.PESET: William Bengston, St. Joseph’s ollege E-PESET: Bob Jahn, Princeton niversitySEETA: Mar rban-urain, Michigan StateniversityTEASE: John eedEPEA AT: Erling Strand,Østfold ollege, orway
opyright © 2011 Society for Scientic Explorationover mage: Eraxion/iStocphoto
3414185
 THE OBSERVATORY
Would Amnesics Make Good Psychics? 
Jim Schnabel
LETTERS
FS
Speaking from the Heart 
Dominique Surel
Mind of the Placebo: In Search of the Perfect Medicine 
Kenneth Smith
The Eye Floater Phenomenon 
Floco Tausin
REFERENCE POINT
Real Drugs for Imaginary Diseases 
 A review by Henry Bauer of 
Selling Sickness: How the World’sBiggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All IntoPatients
by Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels
9
Don’t miss the 30th annual meeting of the SSE!
The program, entitled
The SSE at the Forefront of Science 
,
 will eaturefve sessions: The Implications o Non-locality; The Science o theSubjective; Consciousness and Living Systems; Practical Applicationso Anomalies Research; and The Sociology o Scientifc Evolution.
 Where: Boulder, Colorado—The Millenium Hotel When: June 9–11, 2011
Invited speakers:
Larry Dossey, Pamela Rae Heath, Robert Jahn,Brenda Dunne, Dean Radin, Rollin McCraty, Larissa Cheran,Francesca McCartney, John McMichael, Walter Cruttenden,Jonathan Schooler.
See the website for updated details: www.scienticexploration.or
 
EDGESCIENCE #6 • JANUARY–MARCH 2011 / 3
 
{
 THE OBSERVATORY
|
W
ant to be a better psychic? Maybe a bit o brain damage would help. A recent study o patients who have amnesiadue to hippocampal damage suggests that their brains com-pensate by strengthening an evolutionarily ancient, uncon-scious system o perception and memory. My reading o theparapsychological literature is that this ancient system couldbe crucial or ESP—and i that’s so, then its compensatory boosting ater brain damage could well result in better psiability.
Eternal Sunshine, With Chance of Showers
The study appeared last April in the
Proceedings of the National  Academy of Sciences 
, and covered fve subjects whose bilateralhippocampal damage let them unable to make new long-termmemories o experiences. Their condition, anterograde (i.e.,orward-going) amnesia, was recently dramatized in the flm
Memento 
. But a more relevant depiction appeared in
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 
—whose two lead characters havetheir conscious declarative memories o each other erased, yetretain unconscious, emotion-based memories that inuencetheir actions and bring them together again.Previous studies have demonstrated the existence o thisalternate memory system by showing that anterograde amne-sics can react to stimuli
as if 
they remember them, even whenthey consciously don’t. This study was the frst to highlightthis alternate system not by measuring reactions but by mea-suring the subjects’ sel-reported emotional states even atertheir conscious memories were gone.The fve subjects watched flm clips meant to evoke sad-ness or happiness, and being amnesic, lost nearly all o theirconscious recall or the clips’ content within minutes. But theirnew emotional states, aroused by the clips, dissipated muchmore slowly—in act, stuck around longer than the emotionsevoked by the clips in a non-amnesic control group.Storage o the emotional content o memories is known torely heavily on a limbic region o the brain known as the amyg-dala, which was undamaged in these patients and perhaps hadeven been strengthened to compensate or the hippocampaldamage. The amygdala and other subcortical structures haveoten been linked to the unconscious hal o what neuroscien-tists call “dual stream” systems o perception and memory. Theidea is that one o these streams produces conscious awarenessand identifcation o an object, while the other, evolutionarily older and aster, but unconscious stream localizes the objectand triggers appropriate action (including emotional reaction).Hippocampal damage isn’t the only type o lesion thatcan dissociate these dual-stream systems. In the phenomenono “blindsight,” people with damage to the primary visualcortex lose conscious awareness o the corresponding partso their visual feld—yet can navigate through these “blind”felds quite well, and respond emotionally to stimuli presented within these felds. Researchers have ound that this uncon-scious blindsight pathway intercepts optic nerve signals at thethalamus and bypasses the primary visual cortex on its way tothe rontal eye felds and other processing areas.
The Psi Pathway?
 As I read the paper about the anterograde amnesics, I remem-bered my long-ago journalistic oray into the U.S. govern-ment’s “remote viewing” program. Among the prominentfndings on the research side o that program were that (a)emotional content oten comes through more strongly thanother kinds o content; (b) psi perception oten is inaccessibleto direct conscious awareness when one is in a normal wak-ing state, and instead appears only indirectly—in symbols, inemotional reactions, or in unconscious motor actions such asdowsing or automatic sketching; (c) “top down” cognitive at-tempts to identiy a remote viewing target oten distort or ob-scure psi perception, instead o enhancing it.The connection between these perceptual phenomena andthe unconscious “low road” phenomena seen in anterogradeamnesia and blindsight seemed obvious. O course, to the ex-tent that psi perception truly occurs, it might ow also, oreven principally, through “high road” pathways, albeit not al- ways strongly enough to enter consciousness. I doubt that any parapsychologist has addressed this issue directly. But surely it would be worth investigating whether “low road” pathwaysare the most robust routes o psi perception. A fnding that they are would raise a number o interest-ing questions: For example, do other animals, which presum-ably rely more heavily on such “low road” pathways than adulthumans, maniest psi abilities? Should psi research thereorebe ocused more on lab animals or human children than onadults? Do people with impaired “low road” pathways, or ex-ample rom amygdala damage, have worse psi abilities thanhealthy subjects? And perhaps most intriguingly, would people with damaged “high road” pathways, such as blindsight sub- jects and anterograde amnesics, end up not only with boosted“low road” pathways but with better psi abilities?Incidentally, even i the answer to that last question is
no 
, it seems to me that an anterograde amnesic in other ways would make a good psychic. He would be able to report hisperceptions as they occur, and by quickly orgetting them would keep his mind unusually ree rom distraction. In sodoing, o course, he would orget whatever secret inormationhe had just produced—and thus, in a psychic spying context,might not even need a security clearance.
JIM SCHNABEL
is the author of
Remote Viewers 
, among other boos.e writes about science and culture at eretical otions (hereticalno-tions.com).
By Jim Schnabel
Would Amnesics Make Good Psychics?

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