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Michael Persinger

Michael A. Persinger
File:Michael Persinger.jpg
Born (1945-06-26) June 26, 1945 (age 70)
Jacksonville, Florida
Residence Sudbury, Ontario
Citizenship American
Nationality American
Fields Neurotheology, Neuroscience, Parapsychology
Institutions Laurentian University
Alma mater University of Wisconsin
University of Tennessee
University of Manitoba
Doctoral advisor Template:If empty
Known for Director of Laurentian University's Consciousness Research Laboratory. Notable for his work in the field of neurotheology.
Notable awards

LIFT (Leader in Faculty Teaching), 2007
TVO (Ontario) Best Lecturer 2007
Laurentian University Research Excellence Award 1989

Sudbury Regional Brain Injury Association Lifetime Membership Award 2001

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 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.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Early life

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.[7]

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.[8] He organized the Behavioral Neuroscience Program at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, integrating chemistry, biology and psychology.[citation needed]

Research in parapsychology

Persinger has published reports of rudimentary 'telepathic' communication between pairs of subjects in the laboratory.[9][10] 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[11] during stimulation with complex magnetic fields using a circumcerebral (around the head) eight-channel system.

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[12] and negative[13] results respectively. The evidence base Persinger's theory rests on has been criticised.[6]

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.[1][5] Persinger responded that the researchers had an incorrect computer setup[14] and that many of his previous experiments were indeed carried out double-blind.[15] Both claims are disputed.[2]

Commercial versions of Persinger's devices are sold by his research associate Todd Murphy. One experiment with one of them found no changes in emotional responses to photographs whether the device was on or off, although the researchers concluded that "additional investigations ... are warranted.".[4][16] Regarding Persinger's claims, the psychologist Richard Wiseman has written they have not been replicated and the "scientific jury is unconvinced".[17]

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.

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.[3]


See also


  1. ^ a b 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. PMID 15849873. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2004.10.057. Lay summaryBioEd Online (December 9, 2004). 
  2. ^ a b 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 
  3. ^ a b 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, PMID 18635163, doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2007.10.011 
  4. ^ a b 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. doi:10.2466/02.24.pms.114.1.217-235. 
  5. ^ a b 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. 
  6. ^ a b 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. 
  7. ^ Dr. Michael A. Persinger at Laurentian University
  8. ^ 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. doi:10.2466/pms.1999.88.3c.1210. 
  9. ^ 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. PMID 20887774. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2010.09.060. Lay summaryReport from 
  10. ^ 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. doi:10.2466/pms.2003.97.3.877. 
  11. ^ 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. doi:10.2466/pms.94.2.927-949. 
  12. ^ Electrical brainstorms busted as source of ghosts, BioEd Online, 2004-12-09
  13. ^ BBC Article
  14. ^ Link to full text
  15. ^ 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. PMID 16861170. doi:10.1080/00207450600808800. Lay summaryPersinger's Onlline Commentary. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ Wiseman, Richard. (2011). "The Haunted Brain". Retrieved 2014-10-11.

External links