|Dr. Michael A. Persinger|
|Fields||Neurotheology, Neuroscience, Parapsychology|
|Alma mater||University of Wisconsin|
University of Tennessee
University of Manitoba
|Known for||Director of Laurentian University's Consciousness Research Laboratory.|
|Notable awards||LIFT (Leader in Faculty Teaching), 2007|
TVO (Ontario) Best Lecturer 2007
Michael A. Persinger (born June 26, 1945) is a cognitive neuroscience researcher and university professor with over 200 peer-reviewed publications. He has worked at Laurentian University, located in Sudbury, Ontario, since 1971.
Michael Persinger was born in Jacksonville, Florida and grew up primarily in Virginia, Maryland and Wisconsin. He attended Carroll College from 1963 to 1964, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1967. He then obtained an M.A. in physiological psychology from the University of Tennessee and a Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba in 1971.
Research and academic work
Much of his work focuses on the commonalities that exist between the sciences, and aims to integrate fundamental concepts of various branches of science. He organized the Behavioral Neuroscience Program at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, which became one of the first to integrate chemistry, biology and psychology.
Research in parapsychology
Dr. M.A. Persinger has published reports of rudimentary 'telepathic' communication between pairs of subjects in the laboratory. He has also published increases in remote viewing accuracy of remote viewer Ingo Swann, as measured by a group of ratings of congruence (between Swann's drawings and the locale being 'viewed') by 40 experimentally blind participants during stimulation with complex magnetic fields using a circumcerebral (around the head) eight-channel system. In 2010, Persinger (et al.) published a report of his work with the psychic Sean Harribance, reporting that blind-rated accuracies in his psychic insights correlated with specific Quantitative Electroencephalography profiles; specifically, congruence between activity over the left temporal lobe of those being 'read' by Mr. Harribance and his right temporal lobe. "The results indicate even exceptional skills previously attributed to aberrant sources are variations of normal cerebral dynamics associated with intuition and may involve small but discrete changes in proximal energy"
Research in neurotheology
- Main article: God helmet
During the 1980s he stimulated people's temporal lobes artificially with a weak magnetic field to see if he could induce a religious state (see God helmet). He claimed that the field could produce the sensation of "an ethereal presence in the room". This research has received wide coverage in the media, with high profile visitors to Persinger's lab Susan Blackmore and Richard Dawkins reporting positive and negative results respectively. Dawkins reported a range of minor effects (relaxation, sensations in his limbs, etc.), while Blackmore  reported "One of the most extraordinary experiences" she had ever had.
The only published attempt, by a research group in Sweden, to replicate these effects failed to do so and concluded that subjects' reports correlated with their personality characteristics and suggestibility. They also criticised Persinger for insufficient double-blinding. Persinger responded that the Swedish group had an incorrect computer setup, a claim that the Swedish group dispute, and that many of his previous experiments were indeed carried out double-blind, although the Swedish group have also disputed this.
Tectonic Strain Theory
Persinger has also come to public attention due to his 1975 Tectonic Strain Theory (TST) of how geophysical variables may correlate with sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or Marian apparitions. Persinger argued that strain within the Earth's crust near seismic faults produces intense electromagnetic (EM) fields, creating bodies of light that some interpret as glowing UFOs or The Virgin Mary. Alternatively, he argued that the EM fields generate hallucinations in the temporal lobe, based on images from popular culture, of alien craft, beings, communications, or creatures.
In the UK, Paul Devereux advocates a variant geophysical theory similar to TST, the Earthlights theory. However, unlike Persinger, Devereaux generally restricts such effects to the immediate vicinity of a fault line. Devereux's approach also differs from Persinger's in holding triboluminescence rather than piezoelectricity as the "more likely candidate" for the production of naturally occurring UFOs. Devereux doesn't advocate, as in Persinger's TST, that the phenomenon might create hallucinations of UFO encounters in people, instead proposing an even more radical hypothesis: that earthlights may possess intelligence and even have the ability to read witness' thoughts.
UFO researchers and theologians critical of TST admit that, while, observations of diffuse lights during (and sometimes before and after) very severe earthquakes may give some weak support to some parts of TST and Earthlights theory (see Earthquake lights), they question the ability of fault lines to generate luminous effects and hallucinatory experiences under much less severe conditions. Nonetheless, even TST critics such as Rutowski think such theories may hold some promise for explaining a small percentage of UFO phenomena, although they doubt that they can ever offer a comprehensive explanation for the vast majority of unexplained UFO cases. Other UFO researchers believe this very limited interpretation of the TST is brought into question by the clustering of UFO reports within areas prone to faulting - such as the Pennine region of northern Britain. While acknowledging the drawbacks of Persinger's theory, they feel that amended versions of it may account for a significant proportion of "True UFO" reports.
Persinger's claims regarding the effects of environmental geomagnetic activity on paranormal experiences have not been independently replicated and, like his findings regarding the God helmet, may simply be explained by the suggestibility of participants.
- ↑ (2010). Correlated cerebral events between physically and sensory isolated pairs of subjects exposed to yoked circumcerebral magnetic fields.. Neuroscience Letters 486 (3): 231–234.
- ↑ (2003). Enhanced power within a specific band of theta activity in one person while another receives circumcerebral pulsed magnetic fields: a mechanism for cognitive influence at a distance?. Percept Mot Skills. 97 (3 Pt 1): 977–94.
- ↑ (2002). Remote viewing with the artist Ingo Swann: neuropsychological profile, electroencephalographic correlates, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and possible mechanisms.. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 94 (3 Pt1): 927–949.
- ↑ Sean Harribance.
- ↑ (2010). Cerebral Dynamics and Discrete Energy Changes in the Personal Physical Environment During Intuitive-Like States and Perceptions. Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research 1 (9): 1179–1197.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Electrical brainstorms busted as source of ghosts, BioEd Online, 2004-12-09
- ↑ BBC Article
- ↑ (2005). Sensed presence and mystical experiences are predicted by suggestibility, not by the application of transcranial weak complex magnetic fields. Neuroscience Letters 379 (1): 1–6.
- ↑ Link to full text
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Larsson, M., Larhammarb, D., Fredrikson, M., and Granqvist, P. (2005), "Reply to M.A. Persinger and S. A. Koren's response to Granqvist et al. "Sensed presence and mystical experiences are predicted by suggestibility, not by the application of transcranial weak magnetic fields"", Neuroscience Letters 380 (3): 348–350, doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2005.03.059
- ↑ (2006). Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence is predicted by the specific patterns of the applied magnetic fields, not by suggestibility: re-analyses of 19 experiments.. International Journal of Neuroscience 116 (9): 1079–96..
- ↑ Unidentified Atmospheric Phenomena - Seeing the light, Fortean Times
- ↑ Maugé, Claude. Persinger's Tectonic Strain Theory: Strengths and Weaknesses. Magonia.
- ↑ Chris Rutkowski. The Tectonic Strain Theory of Geophysical Luminosities.
- ↑ Charles Foster (2010). Wired for God?, Hodder & Stoughton.
- ↑ Paul Devereux "Earthlights Revelation" 1989: pp 59-115
- ↑ French, CC., Haque, U., Bunton-Stasyshyn, R., Davis, R. (2009), "The "Haunt" project: An attempt to build a "haunted" room by manipulating complex electromagnetic fields and infrasound", Cortex 45 (5): 619–629, doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2007.10.011, PMID 18635163
- Persinger's webpage at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario
- Persinger's 49 page C.V., noting his 200+ journal publications (PDF)
- Wired Article about Persinger, July 11, 1999
- Laurentian University's Michael Persinger wins TVO's 2007 Big Ideas' Best Lecturer Competition
- Video of Persinger's winning TVO lecture
- BBC article on "God on brain"
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