M. A. Persinger, and S. Koren of Laurentian
University's many conversations, tests, and reviews were an indispensable
part of Shakti's development. Without their participation, consent,
and agreement, it would not have been possible.
Software was created (Shakti For Windows
Neural Stimulation Software) that will produce audio analogs to EEG
signals. These are applied to the brain using modified commonly available
Repeated, stimulation of the left amygdala (associated with positive affect) and the right hippocampus (associated with a positive cognitive style) will, over time, raise the baseline activity of these two structures, allowing individuals to learn a positive emotive and cognitive style, in addition to facilitating altered state experiences. This is postulated to be within the range of personality alterations described popularly as 'Spiritual Transformation'.
In earlier work, an EEG signal, derived from the amygdala, was processed so that an analog (complex) magnetic signal could be extrapolated from it (known as "burstx"). This same signal is applied over the dominant hemisphere (usually the left). The signal is specific to the amygdala, so if its applied only to the dominant (usually left) hemisphere (whose amygdala is associated with positive affect), subjects have reported positive emotional states. When these sessions are repeated for six weeks, positive changes have been reported. (1). The direction of the effects suggests that Shakti's left-channel use of an amygdaloid signal may be able to enhance the affective components of human spirituality.
One hypothesis to explain the how complex magnetic signals influence the brain is that the exogenous magnetic signals entrain (2) electrical firing of large matrices of neurons during the stimulation. The synaptic connections between these neurons and their connections to other neuronal groups (including those outside the limbic system, most notably the temporal and frontal lobes) are activated by this process. Recent research has shown that the proportion of alpha activity, even measurable by classical EEG, can be affected by the anistropic or asymmetric application of these fields after about 10 min of exposure (10). Thereafter, if this research obtains results similar to pervious studies, the functions of these structures should be more available than they were previously, raising the probabilities of spiritual emotional and cognitive states for the individuals receiving the sessions.
A third hypothesis is that the effects are actually unusual examples of learning and memory, based on the observation that the effects of a single session taper off in three to four days. Dr. Persinger (10) "The analogy would be similar to the time required to consolidate new experiences and their probability of occurring in dreams. There are two declining curves in traditional memory studies. The first, the Ebbinghaus curve, shows a massive loss of detail within about one day. The second, which is more relevant for narrative data and experiential emotive data, shows a decrease over about three days after which the amount of detail asymptotes." Instances where Shakti effects endure would be explained in this model because the individual learns to avoid cognitive habits, patterns and styles that prevent them.
The explanation that lasting Shakti effects are due to normal memory processes is lent credence by a recent study (11) which found that "there were no strong or consistent correlations" between the duration of meditation practice and the incidence of experiences like those occurring in complex partial epilepsy. Although meditation does make changes in cognitive and emotional habits, it does so without altering limbic lability. A parsimonious explanation is that periods in which individuals do not engage in dysphoric affect or negative cognition, such as happens with spiritual practice, teach individuals strategies for their avoidance in other contexts, e.g. 'daily life'. Suspending 'negativity' during meditation or prayer trains an individual to suspend them in other contexts. The aforementioned study precludes kindling as a mechanism for the effects of meditation, in spite of the many similarities between spiritual experiences and the phenomenology of Complex Partial epilepsy (26).
The amygdaloid wave form, which approximates burst firing, has been applied over both sides of the brain in several studies. When its applied over the right side, the usual result is dysphoria, both during and after the stimulation sessions (3, 4, 20). When this same wave form is applied over the left side, the stimulation evokes much more pleasant feelings, both during and after the sessions (18, 19). During sessions using this wave form, stimulation over the left was rated as more pleasant than over the right. In one study, the sessions were so pleasant that subjects became irritated when they were interrupted (36). In another study (1), a group of victims of traumatic brain injury experienced "a significant improvement" in affect.
The right amygdala's contribution to death anxiety (23) suggests that left amygdaloid stimulation could easily attenuate it. Freedom from fear of dying is a common theme in spiritual traditions of many derivations, and it's attainment is taken as evidence of spiritual growth. Dr. Persinger, and the rest of our research group place considerable weight on the notion (23, 37) that attenuating death anxiety is a crucial function of both human spirituality and limbic system function (25, 26, 27, 28), and that its neural substrate can be accessed using limbic stimulation (18).
A magnetic analog to a signal associated
with Long-Term Potentiation (40) ( known as "LTP") (which targets
the hippocampus) has been reported in publication as more pleasant when
applied over the right side than the left (32). The hippocampus functions
to consolidate and retrieve memories, as well as to contextualize information.
On the right, it does so with non-verbal information. The right-channel;
hippocampal signal will target an area implicated in experiences that
go beyond words, as well as experiencing events without the 'inner dialog'
that so many spiritual traditions maintain inhibit spiritual states. This
is a theme in many spiritual traditions, especially those of Asia.
The theme of intense dysphoria preceding euphoric episodes is found in many spiritual anecdotes, near-death experiences (12), reports by survivors of childhood abuse, descriptions of experiences with psychotropic substances, religious initiations in pre-For Windowsrate societies, and accounts of complex partial seizures. It has been used as the basis for a forensic analysis of the Buddha's enlightenment (40) There are almost certainly still-unnoticed contexts awaiting attention from researchers.
Conversely, experiences in which the right amygdala achieves a sufficiently high rate of activity would be perceived, in an intense 'sensed presence' experience, as 'demonic' (20, 24). Both classes of experience are known in the For Windowsrature of epilepsy (35), but are not necessarily associated with complex partial seizures (25).
Interhemispheric intrusions include a much less dramatic, and more common phenomena; the more usual 'sensed presence' experience, in which the person 'feels' or 'senses' the presence of another person, or an 'energy' that 'feels alive'. On looking to see who or what is there, they find themselves alone. Here, the right hemispheric homologue to the left hemispheric pathways that support the human sense of self emerge into the person's awareness and are experienced as an ego-alien entity. In other words, the right-sided 'self' comes out where the left-sided 'self' can 'feel' it ( 13, 14, 15, 21, 22 ).
Both the concept of vectorial hemisphericity,
and that of interhemispheric intrusions are emerging as valuable heuristic
tools in neuroscience today, and have met with little, if any, debate
or opposition in spite of several years of papers predicated on them.
One of Shakti's design points hypothesizes, by implication, that repeated
stimulation of the left amygdala and right hippocampus will, over time,
raise the availability of these two structures, allowing individuals more
opportunities to experience and learn to access the positive emotional
and cognitive components of spirituality, as well as entrance to altered
One of the wave forms used is specific to the amygdala, and in gay males, who could constitute a sub-population of the research group, the anterior commisure is 34% more massive than those of straight males and 18% larger than that of heterosexual women (31). The anterior commisure is the structure that connects the amygdala on the two sides of the brain.
The study of reports from gay Shakti participants
suggests that they may need specialized session designs.
PCM wave file analogs to the complex magnetic signal brain stimulation described in the For Windowsrature were derived using audio editing softwares. The complex magnetic signals are low (milligauss) intensity asymmetric, anisotropic, wave forms (9).
The signals consist of a brief audio output, followed by a period of silence. A one minute exposure will involve approximately 9.6 (nine point six) seconds exposure to the (fluctuating) magnetic fields.
Signal intensity: 10 to 20 milligauss (Note that TMS utilizes constant magnetic fields, orders of magnitude higher)
Source file format: 16 bit PCM wave file, 16 bit, 44109hz sampling rate
Files Authored and copyrighted by: Todd Murphy
Templates for neural firings and technical specifications provided and licensed by: Dr. Michael A. Persinger and Stan Koren.
1) Baker-Price, L. A.; Persinger, M. A. Weak, but complex pulsed magnetic fields may reduce depression following traumatic brain injury. Perceptual &; Motor Skills. 1996 Oct. 83 (2): p. 491-498
2) Persinger, Michael A.; Richards, Pauline M.; Koren, Stanley A. Differential entrainment of electroencephalographic activity by weak complexelectromagnetic fields. Perceptual &; Motor Skills. 1997 Apr. 84 (2): p.527-536
3) Gillis, Corri; Persinger, M. A. "Shifts in the Plutchik Emotion Profile Indices following three weekly treatments with pulsed vs continuous cerebral magnetic fields." Perceptual &; Motor Skills. 1993 Feb. 76 (1): p.
4) Richards, Pauline M.; Koren, Stan A.; Persinger, M. A. Experimental stimulation by burst-firing weak magnetic fields over the right temporal lobe may facilitate apprehension in women. Perceptual &; Motor Skills. 1992 Oct. 75 (2): p. 667-670
5) Persinger, MA, "Feelings of past lives as expected perturbations within the neurocognitive processes that contribute to the sense of self: contributions from limbic lability and vectorial hemisphericity. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1996, Dec;83 (3 pt 2): 1107-21
6) Sheline, Yvette I.; Sanghavi, Milan; Mintun, Mark A.; Gado, Mokhtar H. Depression duration but not age predicts hippocampal volume loss in medically healthy women with recurrent major depression. Journal of Neuroscience. 1999 Jun. 19 (12): p. 5034-5043
7)Chritchley, Macdonald, "The Parietal Lobes" Hafner Publishing Company, 1966
8) Davidson, Richard, Brain Asymmetry MIT Press, 1995 200-201
9) Persinger, M.A. "Metaphors for the Effects of Weak, Sequentially Complex Magnetic Fields" Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1997, 85, 204-206
10) Persinger, Dr. M.A., Personal Communication
11) Murphy, Todd & Persinger, M.A. "Complex Partial Epileptic-Like Experiences In University Students And Practitioners of Dharmakaya In Thailand: Comparison With Canadian University Students" Psychological Reports, 2001, 89, 199-206.
40) Murphy, Todd "Forgetting About Enlightenment: A forensic look at the Buddha's Transformation". Unpublished paper, available online at: http://www.innerworlds.50megs.com/moksha.htm
41) Kavanau, J. Lee Memory, Sleep, and Dynamic Stabilization of Neural Circuitry: Evolutionary Perspectives. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev (1996) 20: 289-311.