The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'the god helmet'
Sony have received a patent on a technology for inducing sensory experiences by ultrasonically stimulating the brain; it works similarly to the transcranial magnetic stimulation used in the "God helmet", which stimulates the sensation of a supernatural or religious experience, only on a finer level. The patent is here; perhaps this means that we can expect a PlayStation accessory that induces the authentic visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory sensations of stalking cyborg terrorists through the ventilation ducts of an alien space station or whatever.
The pattern of energy is constructed such that each portion of the pattern projected into the neural cortex may be individually pulsed at low frequency. The system produces low frequency pulsing by controlling the phase differences between the emitted energy of the primary and secondary transducer array elements. The pulsed ultrasonic signal alters the neural firing timing in the cortex. Changes in the neural firing timing induce various sensory experiences depending on the location of the firing timing change in the cortex. The mapping of sensory areas of the cortex is known and used in current surgically invasive techniques. Thus, the system induces recognizable sensory experiences by applying ultrasonic energy pulsed at low frequency in one or more selected patterns on one or more selected locations of the cortex.
Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, is studying the neurology of mystical experience, by taking brain scans of meditators and praying nuns. His results so far are interesting:
During meditation, part of the parietal lobe, towards the top and rear of the brain, was much less active than when the volunteers were merely sitting still. With a thrill, Newberg and d'Aquili realised that this was the exact region of the brain where the distinction between self and other originates.
The limbic system is a part of the brain that dates from way back in our evolution. Its function nowadays is to monitor our experiences and label especially significant events, such as the sight of your child's face, with emotional tags to say "this is important". During an intense religious experience, researchers believe that the limbic system becomes unusually active, tagging everything with special significance.
So it seems that transcendental experience is all in internal metadata, and mystical experiences are just normal experiences with a "THIS IS IMPORTANT" bit set. Which makes sense.
And then there's Michael Persinger of Laurentian University, Ontario, who has developed a helmet that magnetically induces mystical experiences.
Through trial and error and a bit of educated guesswork, he's found that a weak magnetic field... rotating anticlockwise in a complex pattern about the temporal lobes will cause four out of five people to feel a spectral presence in the room with them... What people make of that presence depends on their own biases and beliefs. If a loved one has recently died, they may feel that person has returned to see them. Religious types often identify the presence as God. "This is all in the laboratory, so you can imagine what would happen if the person is alone in their bed at night or in a church, where the context is so important," he says. Persinger has donned the helmet himself and felt the presence, though he says the richness of the experience is diminished because he knows what's going on.
Of course, religious folks are not too keen on the idea that mystical experience is a purely physical phenomenon, and are quick to draw a distinction between "legitimate" mystical states and "illegitimate" ones (such as those induced by drugs or Dr. Persinger's magnetic helmet).