|Michael A. Persinger|
June 26, 1945 |
|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 for his work in the field of neurotheology.|
LIFT (Leader in Faculty Teaching), 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. He is primarily notable for his experimental work in the field of neurotheology, work which has been increasingly criticized in recent years.
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, integrating chemistry, biology and psychology.
Research in parapsychology
In 1974 Persinger proposed that extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic waves may be able to carry telepathic and clairvoyant information. 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.
Research in neurotheology
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.
The only published attempt 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 and argued that there was no physiologically plausible mechanism by which his device could affect the brain. Persinger responded that the researchers had an incorrect computer setup and that many of his previous experiments were indeed carried out double-blind. Both claims are disputed.
The evidence base on which Persinger's theory rests has been criticised and commercial versions of Persinger's devices sold by his research associate Todd Murphy have proved unable to produce the effects that Murphy claims under experimental conditions.
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.
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.
- Persinger, Michael (1974). ELF and VLF electromagnetic field effects. New York: Plenum Press. ISBN 978-0-306-30826-0.
- Persinger, Michael (1974). The paranormal. New York: MSS Information Corp. ISBN 978-0-8422-5212-6.
- Persinger, Michael (1977). Space-time transients and unusual events. Chicago: Nelson-Hall. ISBN 978-0-88229-334-9.
- Persinger, Michael (1980). The weather matrix and human behavior. New York: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-03-057731-4.
- Persinger, Michael (1980). TM and Cult Mania. North Quincy Mass.: Christopher Pub. House. ISBN 978-0-8158-0392-8.
- Persinger, Michael (1987). Neuropsychological bases of God beliefs. Westport: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-275-92648-9.
- Persinger, Michael (1988). Climate, buildings and behaviour. Winnipeg: Institute of Winnipeg. ISBN 978-0-920213-60-5.
- Granqvist, P; Fredrikson, M; Unge, P; Hagenfeldt, A; Valind, S; Larhammar, D; Larsson, M (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. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2004.10.057. PMID 15849873. Lay summary – BioEd Online (December 9, 2004).
- 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
- 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
- Gendle, MH & McGrath, MG (2012). "Can the 8-coil shakti alter subjective emotional experience? A randomized, placebo-controlled study.". Perceptual and Motor Skills 114 (1): 217–235.
- Craig Aaen-Stockdale (2012). "Neuroscience for the Soul". The Psychologist 25 (7): 520–523. "the magnetic fields generated by the God helmet are far too weak to penetrate the cranium and influence neurons within. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses field strengths of around 1.5 tesla in order to induce currents strong enough to depolarise neurons through the skull and cause them to fire. Persinger’s apparatus, on the other hand has a strength ... 5000 times weaker than a typical fridge magnet. Granqvist argues that there is simply no way that this apparatus is having any meaningful effect on the brain, and I’m inclined to agree."
- Craig Aaen-Stockdale (2012). "Neuroscience for the Soul". The Psychologist 25 (7): 520–523. "Persinger’s theory is based on the literature on religiosity in temporal lobe epileptics ... a literature that I argue above is both flawed and outdated."
- Dr. Michael A. Persinger at Laurentian University
- Persinger, M. A. (1999). "On the nature of space-time in the observation of physical events in science". Perceptual and Motor Skills 88: 1210–1216.
- Pamela Rae Heath Mind-Matter Interaction: A Review of Historical Reports, Theory and Research 2011, p. 156
- Persinger, MA; Et, AL (2010). "Correlated cerebral events between physically and sensory isolated pairs of subjects exposed to yoked circumcerebral magnetic fields.". Neuroscience Letters 486 (3): 231–234. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2010.09.060. PMID 20887774. Lay summary – Report from BigNews.biz.
- Persinger MA; Koren SA; Tsang EW. (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. PMID 14738355.
- Persinger, MA; Roll, WG; Tiller, SG; Koren, SA; Cook ., CM (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. PMID 12081299.
- Electrical brainstorms busted as source of ghosts, BioEd Online, 2004-12-09
- BBC Article
- Link to full text
- St-Pierre, LS; Persinger, MA (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. doi:10.1080/00207450600808800. PMID 16861170. Lay summary – Persinger's Onlline Commentary.
- Craig Aaen-Stockdale (2012). "Neuroscience for the Soul". The Psychologist 25 (7): 520–523. "Murphy claims his devices are able to modulate emotional states in addition to enhancing meditation and generating altered states. In flat contradiction of this claim, Gendle & McGrath (2012) found no significant difference in emotional state whether the device was on or off."
- Unidentified Atmospheric Phenomena - Seeing the light, Fortean Times
- Persinger's publications page
- Persinger's webpage at Laurentian University
- Persinger's C.V. (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"