IONS Scientists at the Tucson Consciousness Conference

April 20, 2012
Cassandra Vieten

Welcome to our second edition of Breaking News, giving you the latest updates on what’s happening in Research at IONS.

Last week, three of our visiting scholars participated in the “Toward a Science of Consciousness” conference hosted by our longtime friends and collaborators at the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona. From philosophy to neuroscience, psychology to physics, the eclectic conference covers a wide range of topics related to consciousness. Sessions explored topics like how blind people can “see” with sound, how to make a robot that feels, and how structured use of psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) might change personality.

Arnaud Delorme, PhD, is a visiting scholar at IONS who comes to us from the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego and the Cerco Laboratory in Toulouse, France. A neuroscientist who has, among other things, co-authored the world’s most popular open source software for analyzing electroencephaolography (EEG) (which measures electrical activity of the brain), Dr. Delorme has been collaborating with us for over two years now and has been a welcome addition to our team. At the Tucson conference he presented Brain and Physiological Activity of Sender and Receiver During Local and Remote Periods of Spiritual Transmission, which reported on preliminary results of our laboratory study on spiritual transmission (principal investigators are Cassandra Vieten and Dean Radin). Dr. Delorme is a co-investigator on this study, as well as several other projects being conducted in our Consciousness Research Laboratory at IONS.

Psychophysiological Correlates of Spiritual Transmission is an experiment that is using scientific methods to explore a widely reported phenomenon that occurs in many spiritual traditions, and in Hindu traditions is called “shaktipat.” Believed to be the direct transmission of spiritual energy from one person to another, or sometimes described as a recognition of essential truth that occurs in the presence of someone who is particularly clear or enlightened (kind of like the resonance of a tuning fork), it is unknown whether the phenomenon is due to placebo or expectancy effects, or may have effects that are measurable in the laboratory and cannot be attributed to placebo or expectancy effects. To examine this, we are measuring brain electrical activity and signs of autonomic arousal (like increased temperature, heart rate, and respiration) in various conditions – such as when someone is being “sent” spiritual transmission by people who are reported to be able to do so, either in person, or across the internet (a phenomenon we’ve dubbed “skypetipat”). We are using various conditions and levels of blinding for both subjects and experimenters to compare the real sending sessions against control conditions in which people are not being focused on by the sender (but don’t know it), or aren’t being focused on by someone who is purported to have this effect on people.

You can participate in this research by completing this survey, and we hope to be able to report our results by this Fall.

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