The Altered State

by Elizabeth Royte

This article was sent by Sharon Shea .

Here is the accompanying illustration of the brain entrainment device.

New York Times Magazine
September 29, 1996
Pg. 158

More than a hundred years ago, physicists tried to stimulate the neurons with direct electric current. It didn't work, and it hurt. Experiments with magnets followed; by the late 1980's, scientists realized the key was rapidly pulsing the current on and off. Recently Dr. Michael Persinger, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Lauentian University in Ontario, has been experimenting with solenoids, which create gently fluctuating fields at intensities lower than those of, say, blow-dryer. His electromagnetic device is still experimental and unwieldy, but it may by the year 2096 be simple enough for home use -- a few AA-battery-size solenoids hidden in a compact headset.

Ilere's how it might work: A hand-held computer programs the pattern at which the fields will fluctuate. The impulses move through the temporal lobe and penetrate deep into the brain, where they interfere and interact with the complex electrical patterns of the subject's neural fields. The new patterns spread through the limbic system, producing sensations that range from subtle to profound.

Persinger has discovered that when he aims for the amygdala, his subjects experience sexual arousal. When he focuses the solenoids on the right hemisphere of their temporal lobes, they sense on the left side of their body a negative presence -- an alien or a devil, say. When he switches to left left hemisphere, his subjects sense a benevolent force: an angel or a god.

Focused on the hippocampus, the personal electromagnetic relaxation device will produce the sort of opiate effects that Ecstasy does today. So far, subjects report no adverse side effects. However, "if you interfere with the opiate pattern, people get very irritated," Persinger says. In fact, "they'll actually cuss you out."