A NEUROBIOLOGICAL BASIS FOR EXTRAORDINARY PERCEPTIONS
Vienna, Virginia (October 25, 2009) - There may be a genuine brain-body foundation for extraordinary perceptions, according to research presented in Science & Consciousness Review. The investigation suggests that reports of sensing a presence, seeing an apparition, or feeling energy around a person or place may be related to the workings of the limbic system - the "emotional brain" - as well as a personality type that rapidly registers feelings.
As surveys consistently show that half of all Americans say they've had an extra-sensory experience - with nearly one-quarter stating they've actually seen or felt a ghost - anomalous perceptions are nothing to shrug off, according to one of the researchers, Marc Micozzi, MD, PhD, a physician and medical anthropologist. "People have had these experiences down the ages and across cultures," he comments. "They're quite universal. What we've documented is that there's a certain type of person most likely to experience them."
That person is environmentally sensitive, according to Michael Jawer, an environmental consultant and associate of Micozzi's with specialization in the condition known as Sick Building Syndrome. "Our findings show that anomalous perception parallels other forms of environmental sensitivity, such as having pronounced or longstanding allergies, migraine headache, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, irritable bowel, even synesthesia (overlapping senses). Women make up the vast majority of this sensitive population but there are other markers: being ambidextrous, for instance, or recalling a traumatic childhood. The more we look at the people who claim they're psychic, the more it seems there's a mix of nature and nurture that predisposes them."
Drawing from ample evidence in the field of psychoneuroimmunology, the researchers posit that brain and body are effectively unified -- and that highly sensitive people react more strongly than others to what they're feeling as well as to incoming environmental stimuli. This raises the possibility, Jawer and Micozzi assert, that subliminal feelings and other environmental nuances could be picked up by individuals who are sufficiently sensitive. A reputedly "haunted" place, therefore, could exhibit stimuli that register more with certain people and less with others.
"The whole field is ripe for study," remarks Micozzi. "We have the technology today to study emotion as it's processed in the brain - why not widen the scope to study how feelings are felt, and perceptions registered, in the rest of the body." Jawer agrees. "This subject matter needn't be beyond the pale of science. What is needed is to take seriously what highly sensitive people are telling us, and investigate the brain-body basis of what they say they're feeling."
Journal reference: Jawer M. A Neurobiology of Sensitivity? Sentience as the Foundation for Unusual Conscious Perception. Science and Consciousness Review, January 17, 2007 DOI: