We are told there are two “subjects”. One is being “stimulated”, the other is relaxing, “non-stimulated”.
The EEG of one is said to resemble the EEG of the other. When one subject is “stimulated”, the other’s EEG spikes, right?
We are told the first subject’s brain is somehow remotely stimulating second person’s brain, and the corresponding EEG spikes are the evidence.
BUT… IF these two (presumably normal) brains share this wondrous connection, we’d have to conclude that ALL 7 billion human brains are similarly connected, and that they are all simultaneously stimulating and being stimulated, such that everyone on the planet’s EEGs would resemble everyone else’s.
Further, given how much stimulation the 6.999 billion other brains would be experiencing at any given moment, which would all be thundering into the non-stimulated subjects head at once, why would we realistically expect that the stimulation being experienced by the single “stimulated” subject make any impact whatsoever on the non-stimulated subject’s brain, over and above the impact of the 6.999 billion other brains, such that the former’s particular stimulation was visible in the latter’s EEG over, and distinguishable from, the noise created by the billions of other brains?
I think the question of shielding is irrelevant. The bottom line is that there was no effect. The researchers were quite simply anomaly hunting and exploiting degrees of freedom to manufacture a “positive” result.
The non-stimulated subject’s EEG did not “spike” along with the stimulated subject. There was a tiny fluctuation, in various parts of the brain, either up or down. In other words – noise out of which a spurious signal was creatively extracted.
To play devil’s advocate a bit, isn’t ESP supposed to be a skill? Maybe the participants in the study were just bad at it. It seems like they were all volunteers. If ESP were some kind of real, emergent human skill, it would be unlikely to be found in most people. Only a tiny percent of the population is capable of Olympic athletic feats. Studies like these are like asking random volunteers to climb Everest and then saying it’s impossible when they fail. Shouldn’t the researchers be recruiting people who claim they are skilled at ESP rather than random volunteers?
It seems this ESP study shows that given a noisy data set and proper motivation, any result is possible using ‘advanced statistical techniques’.
I believe the researchers in this field think everyone has ESP to some extent- much of the original material comes from Rhine, who used ordinary people.
I’m not sure anyone has demonstrated they could practice or train in a manner that improved the ability (assuming there is one).
“Would it make any difference?”
I don’t know – probably not but it would certainly make for a better study regardless of the results. Lucid dreaming is something humans can do and it can be viewed as a “skill” you can hone but I don’t think lucid dreams are very common for most people. I kind of lump ESP into the “haphazard and intermittently rare mental phenomena” you hear about – like premonitions and things. Could also be explained by coincidence for sure.
I’m actually pretty impressed with this study. My main research modality and grad training is ERPs, so I read this paper with delight! Having built of few of these labs I can tell you that it is exceedingly difficult – almost impossible – to completely shield EEG chambers such that no ambient noise of any sort, be it EM, sound, or whatever is present in the traces.
Yet, they’ve done it! They did such a good job that they had to resort to the worst kind of treasure hunt to try and find something common in the 2 data sets. I was so sure that the correlation would be 60 Hz hum form their outlets or some such other nonsense. But no.
I really cannot underscore how much of an achievement this is.
I doubt the authors are intentionally trying to manufacture evidence in favor of esp – they are all (especially Wackermann) pretty hard-core skeptics of the existence of esp. Unfortunately, have replicated the effect at least once:
–Wackermann, J., Naranjo, J. R., & Pütz. (2004). Event-related correlations between electrical activities of separated human subjects: Preliminary results of a replication study. Proceedings of the 47th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association.
Also, there have been a few other similar eeg replications. These studies need refuting:
–Persinger, M. A., Koren, S. A, & Tsang, E. W. (2003). Enhanced power within a specific band of theta activity in one person while another receives circumcerebral pulsed magnetic fields: a mechanism of influence at a distance? Perceptual and Motor Skills, 97, 877-894.
–Standish, L. J., Kozak, L., Johnson, L. C., & Richards, T. (2004). Electroencephaolographic evidence of correlated event-related signals between the brains of spatially and sensory isolated human subjects. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10, 307-314
–Kittenis, M., Caryl, P. G., & Stevens, P. (2004). Distant psychophysiological interaction effects between related and unrelated participants. Proceedings of the 47th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association, Vienna, pp. 67-76.
–Dotta, B. T., Mulligan, B. P., Hunter, M. D., & Persinger, M. A. (2009). Evidence of macroscopic quantum entanglement during double quantitative electroencephalographic measurements of friends vs strangers. NeuroQuantology, Vol. 7, Issue 4, Page 548-551.
–Persinger, M. A., Saroka, K. S., Lavallee, C. F. Booth, J. N., Hunter, M. D., Mulligan, B. P., Koren, S. A., Wu, H. P., & Gang, N. (2010). Correlated cerebral events between physically and sensory isolated pairs of subjects exposed to yoked circumcerebral magnetic fields. Neuroscience Letters, 486 (3): 231–234.
–Hendricks, L., Bengston, W. F., & Gunkelman, J. (2010). The Healing Connection: EEG Harmonics, Entrainment, and Schumann’s Resonances. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 655–666.
EEGs are indeed noisy, so the results are much harder to interpret. However, in more dire need of rebuttals are those studies that involve fMRIs, where the data is much clearer:
– Standish, L. J., Johnson, L. C., Richards, T., & Kozak, L. (2003). Evidence of Correlated functional MRI signals between distant human brains. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 9, 122–128
– Achterberg, J., Cooke, K., Richards, T., Standish, L. J., Kozak, L., & Lake, J. (2005). Evidence for Correlations Between Distant Intentionality and Brain Function in Recipients: a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Analysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11, 6, 965–971.
– Richards, T. L., Kozak, L., Johnson, L. C., & Standish, L. J. (2005). Replicable functional magnetic resonance imaging evidence of correlated brain signals between physically and sensory isolated subjects. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11 (6), 955–963.
fMRI scan are more noisy than EEG, if anything. They are another perfect set up for hunting for signals amidst the noise.
Most of those references are in journals that I do not take seriously. In any case – they are all of the same basic type – small, or with inconsistent results (5 positive out of 60 subjects, and only 1 out of 4 retests replicated, for example). They are all just more noise hunting. They are mostly not replications either, except that they are studying the same basic alleged phenomenon, but they use different methods.
In the end we have a handful of poor quality studies with noisy results. Not enough to change the prior probability, which is close to zero.