Cortex, Volume 44, Issue 10 (November-December 2008)

Example of a subject in a Ganzfeld experiment.Ganzfeld experiment

This is a special issue on the ‘Neuropsychology of Paranormal Experiences and Beliefs’

Contents include:

  • The paranormal mind: How the study of anomalous experiences and beliefs may inform cognitive neuroscience (Peter Brugger, Christine Mohr)
  • Visual attentional capture predicts belief in a meaningful world (Paola Bressan, Peter Kramer, Mara Germani)
  • Sentences with core knowledge violations increase the size of N400 among paranormal believers (Marjaana Lindeman, Sebastian Cederström, Petteri Simola, Anni Simula, Sara Ollikainen, Tapani Riekki)
  • Apophenia, theory of mind and schizotypy: Perceiving meaning and intentionality in randomness (Sophie Fyfe, Claire Williams, Oliver J. Mason, Graham J. Pickup)
  • Believing in paranormal phenomena: Relations to asymmetry of body and brain (Günter Schulter, Ilona Papousek)
  • Paranormal experience and the COMT dopaminergic gene: A preliminary attempt to associate phenotype with genotype using an underlying brain theory (Amir Raz, Terence Hines, John Fossella, Daniella Castro)
  • Event-related potential correlates of paranormal ideation and unusual experiences (Alex Sumich, Veena Kumari, Evian Gordon, Nigel Tunstall, Michael Brammer)
  • The transliminal brain at rest: Baseline EEG, unusual experiences, and access to unconscious mental activity (Jessica I. Fleck, Deborah L. Green, Jennifer L. Stevenson, Lisa Payne, Edward M. Bowden, Mark Jung-Beeman, John Kounios)
  • Ganzfeld-induced hallucinatory experience, its phenomenology and cerebral electrophysiology (Jirí Wackermann, Peter Pütz, Carsten Allefeld)
  • Magical ideation and hyperacusis (Stéphanie Dubal, Isabelle Viaud-Delmon)
  • Psychological aspects of the alien contact experience (Christopher C. French, Julia Santomauro, Victoria Hamilton, Rachel Fox, Michael A. Thalbourne)

Highlights include:

  • part of the variance of strength of belief in paranormal phenomena can be explained by patterns of functional hemispheric asymmetry that may be related to perturbations during fetal development
  • an inconclusive attempt to correlate a specific phenotype concerning paranormal belief with a dopaminergic gene (COMT) known for its involvement in prefrontal executive cognition and for a polymorphism that is positively correlated with suggestibility.
  • a study concluding that (a) religious people have a stronger belief in meaningfulness of coincidences, indicative of a more general tendency to maintain strong schemata, and that (b) this belief leads them to suppress, ignore, or forget information that has demonstrably captured their attention, but happens to be inconsistent with their schemata.
  • electrophysiological findings suggesting that paranormalideation may be associated with alteration in contextual updating processes, and that nusual experiences may reflect altered sensory/early-attention (N100) mechanisms.
  • EEG patterns of subjects with high levels of belief in paranormal phenomena and more frequent unusual experiences were similar to those found in schizophrenic-spectrum disorders.
  • People reporting contact with aliens (‘Experiencers’), compared with matched controls, were found to show higher levels of dissociativity, absorption, paranormal belief, paranormal experience, self-reported psychic ability, fantasy proneness, tendency to hallucinate, and self-reported incidence of sleep paralysis.