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God helmet refers to an experimental apparatus in neurotheology. The apparatus, placed on the head of an experimental subject, stimulates the brain with fluctuating magnetic fields. Some subjects reported experiences using the same words used to describe spiritual experiences. The leading researcher in this area is Michael Persinger.
* 1 Equipment
* 2 Controversy
* 3 Other researchers
* 4 References
* 5 External links
Persinger uses a modified snowmobile helmet (the "Koren Helmet") that contains solenoids placed over the temporal lobes, or a device nicknamed the Octopus that uses solenoids, both of which output "weak but complex" magnetic fields. The Octopus uses solenoids around the whole brain, in a circle just above subject's ears, eyes and the bony ridge at the back of the skull, a region that includes the temporal lobes. Persinger reports that at least 80 percent of his participants (working with the Koren Helmet) experience a presence beside them in the room, which ranges from a simple 'sensed presence' to God. About one percent experienced God, while many more had less evocative, but still significant experiences of 'another being'.
The apparatus uses magnetic fields, and not EMF emissions, as is sometimes thought. Much of the controversy surrounding the 'God Helmet' is due to this misunderstanding. Further confusion has appeared from the misperception that Persinger's apparatus is an example of TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), a clinical technique that employs magnetic fields much stronger than the Koren Helmet, and that uses pulsed 'trained' magnetic fields, instead of the 'complex magnetic fields' used in Persinger's research.
There is controversy as to the source of the effects Persinger measured. In December 2004 Nature reported that a group of Swedish researchers, attempting to replicate the experiment under double-blind conditions, were not able to verify the effect. Susan Blackmore, experimental psychologist and experienced researcher of 'paranormal' experiences, was reluctant to give up on the theory just yet. She said: "When I went to Persinger's lab and underwent his procedures I had the most extraordinary experiences I've ever had… I'll be surprised if it turns out to be a placebo effect."  Persinger, however, takes issue with the Swedish attempts to replicate his work. "They didn't replicate it, not even close," he says. He argues that the Swedish group did not expose the subjects to magnetic fields for long enough to produce an effect. He also stresses that many of his studies were indeed double blinded.
Although the equipment and instructions were supplied by Persinger to the Swedish team, later changes in the software, made necessary by faster computers, which the Swedish team didn't have, may have confounded the Swedes' results. Both Persinger and the Swedish team have published polemical commentaries.
A report of an experiment on Richard Dawkins in 2003 said:
The experiment is based on the recent finding that some patients with temporal lobe epilepsy, a neurological disorder caused by chaotic electrical discharges in the temporal lobes of the brain, seem to experience devout hallucinations that bear a striking resemblance to the mystical experiences of holy figures such as St Paul and Moses. Such associations have been noted by researchers for over a century, including Dr. Wilder Penfield's work, published in the 1950s.
Dawkins was reported not to have experienced a religious feeling. The report said:
Dr. Persinger explained his lack of effects. Before donning the helmet, Prof Dawkins had scored low on a psychological scale measuring temporal lobe sensitivity.
 Other researchers
There are others involved in the same lines of research seen in Dr. Persinger's work. Research by Mario Beauregard at University of Montreal has shown religious and spiritual experiences to include several brain regions, including the neurological regions Persinger studies. However, Dr. Beauregard's work, unlike that of Dr. Persinger, does not include inducing religious experiences, and is confined to neural imaging Carmelite nuns while in prayer. The correlation drawn between temporal lobe epilepsy and religious experience, as discussed by Persinger, has been questioned. The auditory and visual hallucinations as well as emotional states experienced by Temporal Lobe epilepsy (TLE) patients during the seizure state typically induce sensations of malcontent, rather than ecstatic or pleasant sensations that are integral to spiritual experience, as noted by neurologist John R Hughes. However, even though only a small percent of TLE seizures include religious experiences, the study of these individuals nevertheless provides important evidence concerning the neural basis for religious and mystic experiences.
1. ^ Persinger MA (2001). "The neuropsychiatry of paranormal experiences". The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 13 (4): 515–24. doi:10.1176/appi.neuropsych.13.4.515. PMID 11748322.
2. ^ Khamsi, Roxanne (December 9, 2004). "Electrical brainstorms busted as source of ghosts" ([dead link]). Nature. doi:10.1038/news041206-10. http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041209/full/news041206-10.html.
3. ^ a b Roxanne Khamsi (December 9, 2004). "Electrical brainstorms busted as source of ghosts". BioEd Online. http://www.bioedonline.org/news/news-print.cfm?art=1424.
4. ^ "response to Granqvist". http://www.laurentian.ca/Laurentian/Home/Departments/Behavioural+Neuroscience/Correspondence/Persinger+Response.htm.
5. ^ a b Persuad, Raj (March 20, 2003). "Holy visions elude scientists". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3306312/Holy-visions-elude-scientists.html. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
6. ^ Neural correlates of a mystical experience in Carmelite nuns. Neuroscience Letters. 26 June 2006. http://www.mapageweb.umontreal.ca/beauregm/Beauregard2006_CarmelitesfMRI.pdf. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
7. ^ Persinger MA (December 1983). "Religious and mystical experiences as artifacts of temporal lobe function: a general hypothesis". Perceptual and Motor Skills 57 (3 Pt 2): 1255–62. PMID 6664802.
8. ^ Persinger MA (February 1993). "Paranormal and religious beliefs may be mediated differentially by subcortical and cortical phenomenological processes of the temporal (limbic) lobes". Perceptual and Motor Skills 76 (1): 247–51. PMID 8451133.
 External links
* Neurotheology: With God in Mind — Article describing neurotheology and Dr. Persinger's work with the God helmet
* God on the Brain, BBC, 2003
* This is your brain on God, Wired Magazine November 1999, article on Persinger's work
* Commercially available version of the God Helmet,
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_helmet"
Categories: Neurotheology | Devices to alter consciousness
Hidden categories: All articles with dead external links | Articles with dead external links from July 2010
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