How it works: The science behind telepathy

Date:12 December 2019 Author: Lucinda Dordley

Scientists have been intrigued by extrasensory perception (ESP) for decades now. This refers to information that is received outside of our five senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. ESP includes phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance and the knowledge of future events.

These phenomena cannot be measured, and are often dismissed as figments of the imagination or fantasy.

Over the years, studies have found that we have the ability to “read” one another’s minds, as we have neurons in our brains that are known as automatic mirrors. A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires when someone carries out an act, and also views someone else carrying out the same act. Such behaviour has been noted in primates as well.

These mirrors help us automatically understand the emotions of others, and sometimes their intentions as well.

In one such study, Professor Gegor Domes of Rostock University in Germany found that there are some drugs that can enhance this sense. Domes and his colleagues found that the ability to better interpret these social cues can be helped by oxytocin, a hormone that creates a sense of trust. It also aids in enhancing social behaviour.

In 2008, another study was conducted by psychiatrist Ganesan Venkatasubramanian. Here, a mentalist – someone who is reportedly telepathic – was asked to participate, as well as a control subject. The mentalist was asked to recreate a picture that was hidden. Venkatasubramanian’s investigation found that the mentalist was able to successfully recreate the image – although not exactly the same, it was similar enough to be passable. The investigations also found that while the mentalist was drawing the image, the right parahippocampal gyrus (PHG) was active. This region plays an important role in memory encoding and retrieval.

Reportedly, the biological predisposition of transferring thoughts is not just limited to humans. It is believed that birds who flock and wheel together are similar to telepathy.  Experimental physicist Jure Demsar and computer scientist Iztok Lebar Bajek demonstrated that such group behaviour may be explained by language-related rule-based computational systems. This suggests that there may be a built-in logic behind group behaviour, and they do not necessarily transcend the laws of nature.

Based on preliminary research, scientists found that:

– Our brains are wired to pick up subtle social cues

– Our brains are also wired to reflect intentions and emotions in the presence of others

– Our brains cannot as easily across large distances

– If there are people with telepathic abilities, some are more capable than others

– The hippocampal and parahippocampal brain regions may be involved in telepathic communication, as they are also involved in integrating memories and detecting subtle aspects of language communication.

Picture: Unsplash

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