Ascensão de Cristo, Salvador Dali
Let's imagine that, with a simple push of a button we could control our brain, turning off, for example, drug addiction, or turning on our thought capacity or velocity or, even, improving our memorizing ability.
Now let's imagine a machine is capable of inducing mystic states of mind and of making "virtual encounters" with the Divine possible. Such a technique, that is capable of improving specific parts of our brain with minimal side-effects is something that motivates a large number of investigations in an area that is becoming the Holy Grail of Neurophysiology.
Well, that technique already exists and is called TMS – Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. It's a non-invasive method of stimulating, inhibitting and moulding specific brain circuits: a magnet similar to the one used for NMRs (Nuclear magnetic resonances), is focused on specific parts of the cerebral cortex and impulses of variable intensity, frequency and duration can, with low frequencies, ihibit the cortex and, with high frequencies, stimulate it, and its effects last longer than the stimulation.
Developed in 1985 at Sheffield University, and improved from 1995 on, it has been used, successfully, among patients suffering from major depression, resistent to conventional treatment, to speed up the effect of anti-depressants; and among schizophrenic patients with auditory hallucinations. It is thought that the FDA might soon qualify this technique as being secure for the treatment of patients with drug-resistant depression, as an alternative to Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). It's also being tested for Epilepsy, chronic pain, brain haemorrhages, appetite regulation, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), etc. It's in the field of brain performance improvement that this method shows more possibilities.
Studies conducted at the Gottingen University, in Germany and at the Centre for the Mind in Sydney, Australia have shown a 10% improvement in the learning of motor skills and significant improvements in the creative capacity of volunteers that were subject of specific stimulation with TMS. In addition, research sponsored by the USA military have already put it in the helmet of pilots, hoping to raise their performance, and inside a portable device the size of an mp3 player, able to stimulate the brain with the touch of a button.
The work of neurophysiologist and TMS pioneer Michael Persinger from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontário, has focused on the stimulation of the right hemisphere of the brain, able to induce mystical states of mind with "sensorial presence" in volunteers that experience intense pleasure and intense panic, which leads them to believe the test chamber is haunted, as well as sensations of "direct contact" with the Divine.
Persinger believes that normal alterations, those which are not artificially induced, of the magnetic fields may be responsible for paranormal experiences, such as ghost phenomenons, OVNIs and mystic apparitions. Based on Persinger's work in the emerging area of Neurotheology there already are scientists exploring the biological basis of spirituality and venturing that the religious phenomenon can have an electromagnetic explanation and that mystical experiences, such as those felt by Saints and Mystics can be recreated in laboratory, by electromagnetic impulses.
Sources, that have not yet been confirmed, say that there is work and anxiety from Vatican to Jerusalem with the far-reac of Persinger's experiments.