Scientists Inject Radiation into Psychic Mediums' Brains, Get Creeped Out

Scientists Inject Radiation into Psychic Mediums’ Brains, Get Creeped Out

Researchers from the Institute of Psychology in Sao Paulo, Brazil have been conducting some pretty interesting experiments with a few of the area’s psychic mediums in hopes of shedding light on what happens to the brain when it goes into a trance state.. and finally answer the question of whether or not there are people who can, in fact, communicate with the dead.

In their research article posted on November 16th titled “Neuroimaging during Trance State: A Contribution to the Study of Dissociation“, the researchers described their process of injecting a radioactive tracer into the brains of ten mediums, five very experienced and five fledgling, and used single photon emission computed tomography (or SPECT) to view how the activity in the subject’s brains changed when they went into trance.

For this particular experiment, scientists decided to focus on the act of automatic writing, a practice that has been around since the earliest days of spiritualism, through which the medium writes on behalf of what is generally assumed to be a spirit of the deceased. The results of their tests are interesting, to say the least.


In the more experienced mediums (with up to 47 years of automatic writing under their belts), the frontal lobe experienced far less activity than usual. What this generally indicates is that the areas most associated with creativity, language, movement, and focus were working less, meaning that the automatic writers (or psychographers) were indeed going into some sort of trance. On the inexperienced psychics? The total opposite. Their frontal lobes lit up, an indication that they were really trying to connect with something, indicating a not so trance-y state of concentration and focus.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the study was the writing samples that resulted. When analyzed for their complexity, the writing of the experienced mediums whose frontal lobes fuzzed out scored much higher than the inexperienced psychics who were actually trying. Or, to put it simply, the psychography that should have looked like the incoherent scribbling of a person half asleep actually made more sense than the writing samples from someone who was concentrating on communing with the dead.

So far, they can’t explain why that is. From the paper:

The fact that subjects produced complex content in a trance dissociative state suggests they were not merely relaxed, and relaxation seems an unlikely explanation for the underactivation of brain areas specifically related to the cognitive processing being carried out. This finding deserves further investigation both in terms of replication and explanatory hypotheses.

Does this mean that one can actually, through years of practice, “tune” themselves in to some sort of spiritual line of communication with the dead? Or is this merely evidence that the brain can be taught to induce disassociation? Either way, people are still going to think you’re creepy for doing it.

Share your thoughts about the study with us in the comments!


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Greg Newkirk

Greg Newkirk

Editor-In-Chief at Week In Weird
Writer, adventurer, and professional monster chaser, Greg Newkirk is the founder and Editor-In-Chief of Week In Weird, Director of The Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult and one-half of the prolific investigative duo Planet Weird. Learn more about Greg.
Greg Newkirk
Greg Newkirk

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This is a must read analysis of the study by a neurologist. Quote: “It is possible that some or all of the experienced psychographers have insight into what they are doing (they know they are faking) but still have developed their technique to the point that they are largely performing subconsciously. It is also possible that they are interpreting their own dissociative states as spiritual. This study provides no evidence, in my opinion, to separate these two possibilities. There is a purely neurological interpretation of the results that are consistent with prior studies (and again, I don’t think the… Read more »
Pretty sure experience renders something deep enough in your subconscious that you don’t really need your frontal lobes engaged in order to make it happen at a highly functional level. Example: Athletes who train at a high level will, when they’re really on their game, get into a “flow” where time seems to slow and a different part of their brain takes over. Athletes who’ve experienced this report what almost sounds like bullet-time, as they anticipate their opposition’s moves well ahead of time and effortlessly dominate the event. Example: I studied Anglo-Saxon for a few years in grad school, and… Read more »
Spirit writing as any researching skeptic ought to know is also “automatic writing” which occurs when presumably a “spirit” somehow controls the writer or, as is more often the case, her/his writing hand and supposedly parts of his/her arm. Steven Novella response is less than desirable: Although he writes, “The standard interpretation of this is that, with training and practice, the brain becomes more efficient at performing tasks,” which seems true enough, he adds, I guess as an explanation for this: “Some of the components of the task become ingrained in subconscious parts of the brain so that less conscious… Read more »
When I was practicing, my business partner and I hand an idea about what brainwaves did when we started using our minds to heal, or whatever we were setting about to do. So we started hooking ourselves up to an EEG machine to see what was going on with our brain. We learned that when we entered what this article calls the “trance state”, our brains lost most Beta Wave action (the motor skills, awake, FAST part of brain activity), Alpha Waves rose slightly (imagination, the part that is awake during dreaming or recalling events), and Theta Waves (deep dream… Read more »

Come on, add the comment on your theory.

Interesting !

Jesus! I’m officially off the grid…


I’m spooked solid!

The last part – it usually goes for the women lol