Michael Persinger - Psychotropic drugs and nature of reality
August 8th 2007
Michael Persinger has been a professor at Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada since 1971 and has written numerous papers and six books including ‘The Neuropsychological Base of God Beliefs’. One of his most significant areas of research has been on the effects of magnetic fields on perception.
In 1987, he began systematically testing trial subjects with complex electro-magnetic fields after discovering that they could induce a number of experiences, ranging from a sensed presence to religious and mystical feelings. His aims were to determine which portions of the brain, or its electro-magnetic patterns, generate the experiences. The results of the experiments clearly show differences between the left and right hemispheres. Euphoric, religious or mystical experiences were accessed when the right hemisphere was stimulated. Furthermore, the sense of something or someone present seemed to be a left hemisphere interpretation of the intrusion from the right hemisphere. This ‘sensed presence’ was often interpreted (by the subject’s left hemisphere) as spirits, ghosts, angels, gods, devils or aliens. Again it seems that the left hemisphere is trying its (limited) best here to attach some concept, however unlikely, to a numinous right hemisphere experience.
This is a fascinating lecture. Particularly of interest is the way psychedelic drugs imitate the effects of certain neurotransmitters to affect the brain, for example LSD imitates serotonin and mescaline imitates dopamine. It is not the substance itself that is experienced but the boosting of the brain’s own neurochemistry. Persinger mimicked the effects of these kinds of substances with weak electromagnetic fields. The temporal pattern of the fields corresponded to the molecular structures of the compounds. Interestingly psychedelic substances do not produce altered states of consciousness in people who have lost the use of the right hemisphere, just as the electromagnetic fields have a particular effect on the right hemisphere. And as with psychedelic drugs it takes 15-20 minutes for the electromagnetic fields to produce an effect.