Wednesday, October 04, 2006

another episode of "why I love science"!

"The whole of science consists of data that, at one time or another, were inexplicable." - B. O'Regan

Anyone who knows me knows I am a skeptic. If you forward me a stupid e-mail, I'm the one who'll look in up on and send a rebuttal to the whole list. I don't believe in the paranormal, which means that certain people in my life don't enjoy watching "Ghosthunters" with me. I turn my nose up at "spirit balls" or other weird smudges in graveyard photographs, and thoroughly enjoyed a recent exhibit on "spirit photography" (which explained how all the tricks were done). What non-skeptics consider paranormal, I consider "things that science will eventually explain".

Having a background in neuroscience, I was especially intrigued and delighted to read this article in the NY Times, which chronicles recent discoveries that begin to explain (scientifically, that is) out-of-body experiences and other strange sensations once considered (not by me, of course) to fall within the realm of the paranormal:
They are eerie sensations, more common than one might think: A man describes feeling a shadowy figure standing behind him, then turning around to find no one there. A woman feels herself leaving her body and floating in space, looking down on her corporeal self.

Such experiences are often attributed by those who have them to paranormal forces.

But according to recent work by neuroscientists, they can be induced by delivering mild electric current to specific spots in the brain. In one woman, for example, a zap to a brain region called the angular gyrus resulted in a sensation that she was hanging from the ceiling, looking down at her body. In another woman, electrical current delivered to the angular gyrus produced an uncanny feeling that someone was behind her, intent on interfering with her actions.

To read the rest of the article, click here.


Mary Beth said...

You go, skeptic girl!

Chris said...

That's fascinating, really! The human brain is amazingly complex. I suppose as long as we humans will spend exploring the outer reaches of space, we'll be exploring our own brains as well. Both seem to be endless domains of new discoveries.

I'm curious to know more about the "out of body" experience. I know someone who said she's had that type of experience repeatedly, and thought it to have been brought on by an early childhood trauma (emotional, not like a head injury or anything).

Jennifer said...

Cool! What an appropriate topic for the Halloween month.

karaokekitty17 said...

"Ghosthunters" is TOTALLY real!!! I believe, I believe! OK, just kidding (an aside: I must admit that the hosts of "Ghosthunters", Jason and Grant, are two of my friends on myspace - lol).

While I would really like to believe in the existence of ghosts and such, my scientific leanings bar me from accepting such "proof" without exstensive evidence. Videotape does not qualify as factual evidence, as tapes can be digitally altered, etc. The day I see a full-body apparition float by, maybe then I'll know. For now, I'll just enjoy such shows and stories with an air of wonder and excitment, hoping it's real but realizing it's probably not.

Kat E said...

Chris, I wouldn't discount the very real possibility that an emotional trauma could result in physical/chemical alterations in the brain. In other words, the more we learn about the brain, the harder it is to draw distinctions between "emotional" and "physical". And I do agree with your comparison of brain research and space exploration!

KK, I usually think "I'll believe it when I see it", too, but I know I would even doubt my own eyes (especially knowing what I know of visual disturbances!)

Lever said...

So... how does one explain this "god" bloke then? And how come so many deluded people are getting zapped by electricity then? And do people who use those toning things to electro-shock themselves into having a six-pack... do they suffer from religion too?

Kat E said...

Lever, I'm assuming these are rhetorical maybe you're familiar, as I am with the experiments involving brain stimulation that evoke intense religious feelings? The brain is a wonderful, mysterious thing :)