Experiences of a Supreme Personality and Extraterrestrials

From: http://www.raphaelvishanu-world.at/pers.html

Michael Persinger
This article presents evidence that the "visitor" experience is a more intense variant of the "sense of a presence," a phenomenon frequently reported by normal people. (Approximately 30 percent of 500 normal adults who have been assessed in the Neuroscience Laboratory over the last 15 years have reported this experience.) The "presence" is felt most frequently in the early morning hours. If the person is asleep, he or she will suddenly awaken, often feeling some fear or even immobility.

Such experiences are thought to be correlated with mesiobasal (amygdaloid-hippocampal) portions of the temporal lobes.2 These areas of the brain are associated inter alia with the experience of meaningfulness, the sense of self and its relationship to space-time (with its religious or "cosmic" associations), fear, dreams, experiences of movements (like spinning or floating), smell, and memory storage and retrieval. Consequently, there should be (and there are) references to the sense of presence; feelings of spinning or floating, or of vibrations; dreamlike sequences; and fear (or irritability). Because an important part of the temporal lobe receives visual information from the edges of the visual field, flickering sensations can occur in the upper peripheral vision.

If the neural substrate of the "visitor" experience is characterized by transient electrochemical fluctuation within temporal lobe structures, then: (1) the phenomenological nature of these experiences should reflect temporal lobe function, and (2) people with personality profiles that are strongly correlated with temporal lobe lability should be prone to having these experiences. Both of these observations have been substantiated by clinical evidence.

That either endogenous or exogenous (surgical) stimulation of deep temporal lobe structures, such as the hippocampus and especially the amygdala, can evoke specific phenomenological patterns, is well established.3, 4 The specific details are determined by the etiology (e.g., a space-occupying lesion, electrical anomaly, vasospasm); the location of the lesion; and the amount of cumulative brain damage.5 Patients with partial complex or limbic (temporal lobe) epilepsy frequently report such symptoms as a sense of a presence; depersonalization (feelings of unreality or out-of-body experiences); hearing and/or knowing from "internal" sources, vestibular sensations (most commonly internal vibrations, rising sensations in the thorax, and floating or spinning sensations). Anxiety or panic, forced thinking, smelling odd odors,6 and sacral proprioception in the genitals and anal sphincter have been reported. Females may have erotic experiences. Visual phenomena vary from shadows, entities, or colors in the peripheral field to complex animated sequences dominated by substantial fantasy elements that are not always simple reiterations of personal experience.7

Most importantly, the experient is frequently convinced that what he or she has perceived is real; although details may not be clear, the person is sure that something profound has occurred. Typical behaviors between seizures 8, 9 include a widening of affect (e.g., odd events, even if they occur infrequently, still acquire a special meaning); multiple references to psi phenomena; the conviction that one has communed with an entity or god and has been chosen for a special destiny; hypergraphia (the desire or need to record the significant experiences); obsession with themes such as the nature of the universe; and the desire to proselytize. 10 Invariably there is amnesia and a history of time loss. Affective disorders and alterations in sexual behavior are common.

There is now evidence of a continuum of temporal lobe lability or sensitivity.11, 12, 13 People who display complex partial epilepsy (without convulsions) occupy the extreme portion of this continuum. Its existence is based upon the occurrence of microseizure-like activity that happens routinely during normal REM sleep14 and the linear relationship between the number of mesiobasal temporal lobe neurons recruited during electrical transients and the intensity and display of epileptic experiences. 15 The concept is a logical development of Bear's sensory-limbic hyperconnectionism. 16 Its validity within the normal population has been indicated by enhanced cross-modal matching in individuals who display enhanced temporal lobe signs. 17

Normal people and temporal lobe experiences: Possible neuropsychological mechanisms

SEVERAL STUDIES show that normal people who display quantitatively more temporal lobe (bipolar T3, T4) alpha activity (and hence a greater range in activity or lability) during test conditions also experience the phenomenological profile evoked by limbic seizures. 18, 19 Although qualitatively similar to experiences associated with such seizures, the normal temporal lobe experiences are less intense, and there is no electroencephalograph ic or clinical evidence of seizures. Special populations (poets and writers, for example), who display an enhanced proclivity for limbic experiences, also show an increased incidence of small sharp spikes during resting EEG recordings, especially in the early nocturnal hours.20 The spikes are similar to those reported in people with familial associations of manic depression,21 and the number of spikes is positively correlated with the number and frequency of benign limbic experiences.

These clinically normal individuals ("normal" as defined by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory JMMPIJ) more frequently report "feeling the presence of a Being or close contact with a universal consciousness during the early morning hours," lifting sensations or vibrations before falling asleep, "an experience ofa smell from childhood just before I fell down," depersonalization, and intense bouts of meaningfulness between 2:00 A.m. and 4:00 A.M. Normal individuals, who have no history of limbic seizures, also report widening of affect in conjunction with personal interpretations of mundane events-e.g., "When I have a tough personal decision to make, I will get a'sign'and then I will know what to do." Strong positive correlations exist between temporal lobe symptoms and exotic beliefs (time,traveling) or psi experiences such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition.22 People who report temporal lobe signs display an unusual proclivity for reading or writing prose or poetry and are prone to generate and remember vivid visual imagery, especially that concerning childhood events. The latter capacity is correlated with specific EEG activity, as well as with temporal lobe signs.23

Several personality inventories-the MMPI, the California Personality Inventory (CPI), and Cattell's 16PF-have been remarkably consistent in the description of people who display frequent temporal lobe signs.24, 25, 26 On the one hand, these people are highly creative, versatile, intuitive, and interested in philosophic or aesthetic topics. However, scores on the temporal lobe scales are also positively correlated with anxiety (specifically, ego weakness and performance anxiety); mood swings; tension; and excessive, obsessive rumination, as well as circumstantiality, wherein the person becomes "stuck" in a train of thought and is unable to move beyond it. When thinking is inefficient, they are prone to suspiciousness, delusions (e.g., interpreting everything that happens in personal terms, and associated paranoid behavior), or the desire to prophesy and "spread the word"; stereotyped thinking, and panic (especially abstract in nature, generated by thoughts of death, such as death from nuclear war). The single feature most often seen is mild to moderate hypomania against a background of low-level depression. Considering the persistent association between clinical mania and temporal lobe epilepsy, and their shared treatment by some anticonvulsants (such as carbamazepine or Tegretol,27 the occurrence of the hypomanic "spike" in normal people who report frequent complex partial epileptic signs lends further support to the temporal lobe continuum.

People who display temporal lobe lability are also hypnotically suggest ib le. 28, 29 The more frequent the number of temporal lobe signs, the more easily they dissociate, as defined by reports of sensations of floating or spinning or visual imagery, during routine hypnotic procedures, as well as the postepisodic partial amnesia. Measurements of alpha activity over the temporal lobes is correlated with experiences of odd smells, while the number of temporal spikes is directly related to vivid imagery of early childhood activities, especially references to imaginary playmates.

Not surprisingly, temporal lobe signs and belief in psi are correlated with elevationson the Feelingscaleof the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator,30 a relationship that has been noted by others.31 People with these profiles tend to become writers, actors, musicians, painters, poets, and abstract thinkers. (Such people are frequently found in specific vocations such as the public media, and the contribution of their beliefswhich have a direct effect on a large number of people-to the assessment of "visitor" experiences must still be determined.)

Ternporal lobe processes and the "visitor" experience

If temporal lobe processes are involved in the "visitor" experience, then the phenomenological patterns should be similar across experiences and should effectively reflect the function of temporal lobe structures. The concept is well supported by the findings of modem neuroscience. It has been demonstrated that the behavioral profile of a developing human is a function of that region of the brain that is displaying the greatest relative metabolic rate.32 Ina similar manner, the phenomenological experience of a human being will be dominated by that portion of the brain that displays the greatest electrical activity. The concept that the fabric of emotional experience reflects the functions of the neuroanatomical substrate has been developed by Three prototypic accounts of "visitor" experiences offer ample support to the temporal lobe factor. These three are Whitley Strieber's Communion,33 a classic UFO abduction report; Agartha, by Meredith Young,34 a biography of a channeler, which tells of an "otherdimensional" presence; and Gopi Krishna's Kundalini,35 a description of the emergence of a mystical energy. In all these accounts, the experiences were associated with the predominant metaphor of the sense of a presence, swirling or vorticat sensations, internal vibrations, floating sensations, alterations in perception (seeing auras and glowing outlines around the edges of objects), frank psi phenomena, and a profound sense of meaningfulness. After the initial trigger experience, followed by intermittent psychological depression, there was substantial cognitive restructuring. Odd events that had happened throughout the person's life were integrated and seen as "meaningful," environmental happenings acquired a deep personal relevance, the person developed a conviction that he was chosen, and a desire emerged to deliver the cosmic message to mankind. The experience was invariably considered to be "real."

Each account contains specific temporal lobe signs, which should reflect the actual locus of the electrical lability within temporal lobe structures. For example, Strieber's description of fundamentally aversive sensations (associated with intense smells, hypervigilance, and anal sphincter images) should reflect anomalous activity within the anterior parahippocampal gyrus, with special involvement of the amygdaloid complex and adjacent uncus. Meredith Young's account of visual vibrations in the upper left visual field are virtually pathognomic of electrical focus within Meyer's loop of the right temporal lobe36 and are common correlates in females with verified temporal lobe foci.37 Gopi Krishna presents a general profile dominated by references to marked visual alterations and alimentary difficulties, which suggests involvement of the insula and adjacent claustrum.

One of the most common features of the UFO experience is the encounter with small humanoids who often have large heads, thus resembling the fetus. There is evidence that these experiences are adult modifications of perinatal memories.38,39 That the fetus has the cerebral capacity to detect and consolidate experience has been established.40 A vestigial convolution of the hippocampal system, the indusium griseum (supracallosal gyrus), regresses following birth.41 This structure contains the longitudinal striae that extend the entire length of the corpus callosum and into the diagonal band of Broca, which in turn interconnects with the amygdala and septum. During dream states, which are characterized by massive activation of hippocampal-amygdatoid pathways,42 these pathways and their correla, tive experiences might be accessed but then modified during the process of translation to adult neocortical activity. It should not be forgotten that "visitations" by variously shaped small humanoids have been reported by patients with active temporal lobe foci.43

Both theoretical44, 45 and cl in ica 146 evidence suggest that transient neuroelectrical discrepancy between the left and right temporal lobes is a precondition for the sense of a presence. Because the right hemisphere displays a wide range of receptive capacity (even during borderline arousal levels) as compared with the narrow band of arousal displayed by the left hemisphere, a substantial portion of the material that composes the "visitor" experience should be acquired by incidental learning during twilight states. The number of experiences could accumulate during the experient's lifetime so that they began to operate as functionally independent processes.47

The major origin of the functional commissurotomy between the left and right temporal lobes48 could be caused by a reinforcement history that empathized compartmentalization.49 Some religious disciplines, such as Catholicism, are well known for facilitating this development. Severe trauma, such as early sexual abuse, could be equally effective, because of the consequent repression of unpleasant memories serving as source material for the experience. The importance of the temporal lobe factor in this process is strongly suggested by the moderate intercorrelations in patient populations between temporal lobe epilepsy, multiple personality, and early child abuse-50

Right hemispheric information may be accessed during sleep,51 especially if personal stress disrupts nocturnal periods, because of both the bilateral coherence in amygdaloid-hippocampal activity and the type of cortical arousal that constitute dream sleep.52 However, hypnosis could also facilitate access to this information.53, 54 This technique could contribute to the cognitive restructuring of personal information, a process that has been found useful in clinical settings. There is evidence that hypnosis may generate phenomena, especially the experience of time loss or "missing time,"55,56 If this procedure does create experiential changes, then the technique itself might contribute to the production of the UFO experience, Regression hypnosis should prove to be a powerful tool, because-in only a few brief clinical interviews-it can facilitate a functional association among the individual memories of unusual and repressed experiences that are stored during the person's lifetime.

Since the right hemisphere operates at the syntactic level of a fiveto six-year-old and with the vocabulary of a young adolescent,57 articulation of experiences would be initially difficult. Experiences during the early stages of the "visitor" phenomenon should be associated with alterations in right temporal lobe function; such experiences include deficits in spatial orientation and spatial memory or an interest in the mystical meaning of geometric shapes. Factors that facilitate a discrepancy between the left and right temporal lobes, such as lefthandedness or the pursuit of a vocation that depends mainly on right temporal lobe function (music, art, perception of subtle behavioral patterns) should be more evident in the general population of "visitor" experients.

Conditions that may trigger the "visitor" experience

THESPECIFIC TRIGGER for the "visitor" experience, particularly the type that is associated with UFO phenomena, has been hypothesized to involve direct exposure to tectonic strain fields.58 People whose houses are built over susceptible areas (e.g., fault lines) may be exposed frequently to the displays of these fields, which, while thought to be very focused and of brief duration, are very intense. Because of the intense electrical lability of the temporal lobes, their stimulation would generate the electrochemical changes that could promote the "visitor" experience. Short pulses of energetic stimuli would be optimal for facilitating the normal burst firing pattern of the human amygdala.59

Burst firing of hippocampal neurons for only a few seconds between 1001-1z and 40OHz is sufficient to promote long-term potentiation.60 In fact, brief seizures can induce c-fos gene activity in the hippocampal formation with generalization to the neocortex,61 an observation that supports the concept of memory modification,62 because this gene encodes a nuclear phosphoprotein that displays DNA binding. We have found that exposure to low-intensity, extremely low-frequency brain frequency fields evoke partial amnesia,63, 64 exacerbate vestibular images, and alter suggestibility.65 The difficulty of focusing applied magnetic fields in order to excite very small areas (< I cml) of deep temporal lobe tissue is a primary technical impedance.

The "visitor" experience may be evoked by other sources, however. Deep temporal lobe structures are very sensitive to ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone) and gluticosteroids. Psychological depression is associated with marked elevation in ACTH; consequently, psychological depression (especially in people whose creativity is coupled with temporal lobe transients), grief due to personal crises, and other psychological trauma could generate the "visitor" experience. A more common but more mundane form of the experience, associated with grief, is the apparition experience following bereavement,66 which appears to be promoted by sudden increases in geornagnetic activity.67 In addition, meditation or prayer, as, for example, the repetition of a mantra, is perhaps the strongest verbal analogue of kindling68 and can generate specific temporal lobe lability.69 If ACTH fragments are essential for normal amygdaloid kindling,70 then psychological stress may be a prerequisite for the maintenance of the amygdaloid activity that mediates and promotes the perception of the "visitor."

The "visitor" experience: A typical case

To date there have been few controlled studies to determine the neuropsychological mechanisms of "visitor" experiences. They have been reported by clinically normal people who display many of the personality and phenomenological characteristics described earlier. For example, in one case investigated by this researcher, a 35-year-otd woman reported that she was visited by creatures who surrounded her bed during the night and sometimes carried her away. She could only sense their presence, because they vibrated so quickly and reflected light in a strange way. They were "felt" to be small creatures with large heads and eyes like those of infants.

The creatures seemed obsessed with her sexual organs and tried to operate upon her. Wheals and, later, warts were reported around the pubic area and on the left hand. Except for a mild elevation on the hypomania and F (validity) scales of the MMPI, she responded like a normal middle-aged female. The only remarkable features were her enhanced suggestibility, an early history of sexual abuse, and a recent episode with cocaine, about six months before the incident. The t, visitors" disappeared with carbamazepine, a drug that is specific for complex partial epilepsy and hypomania.

Although this treatment may not be beneficial in all such cases, its results empathize the importance of approaching this phenomenon from a neuropsychological basis.

"Visitor" experiences have been persistent phenomena throughout the phenomenological history of man. Often they have been associated with extraordinary creativity7l and intuitive insight concerning human behavior. Their forms have followed the changing fabric of human culture. They have ranged from the nocturnal Harpies, succubi, and incubi that tormented or ravaged their helpless victims to guardian angels that promised forbidden knowledge. Their themes have reflected the construction of the human limbic system. Their operations were functions of the unconscious cognitive processes that guide human thinking. When sex and sin were the repressed desires, the "visitors" were cast from that perspective. Now, with the hopes of immortality melting into the last residue of religious delusions, the "visitor" experiences have been transmuted once again.
1. H. Evans, Visions, Apparitions and Alien Visitors (Well ingborough, Northamptonshire, England: Aquarian Press, 1984).

2. M. A. Persinger, "Religious and Mystical Experiences as Artifacts of Temporal Lobe Function: A General Hypothesis," Perceptual and Motor Skills 57 (1983): 1255-1262. (Hereafter abbreviated as PMS.) See also Persinger, "Geophysical Variables and Behavior. IX: Expected Clinical Consequences of Close Proximity to UFO-related Luminosities," PMS 56 (1983): 259-265.

3. P. Gloor, "Temporal Lobe Epilepsy: Its Possible Contribution to the Understanding of the Significance of the Amygdala and of Its Interaction with Neocortical-Temporal Mechanisms." In The Neurobiology of the Amygdala, ed. B. E. Eleftheriou (New York: Plenum, 1972), pp. 423-457.

4. Gloor, "Role of the Human Limbic System in Perception, Memory, and Affect: Lessons from Temporal Lobe Epilepsy." In The Limbic System: Functional Organization and Clinical Disorders, ed. B. K. Doane and K. E. Livingston (New York: Raven Press, 1986), pp. 159-169.

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6. F. R. Ervin, "Organic Brain Syndromes Associated with Epilepsy." In Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, ed. A. M. Freedman, H. 1. Kaplan, and B. J. Sadock (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1975), pp. 1138-1157.

7. M. J. Horowitz and J. E. Adams, "Hallucinations on Brain Stimulation: Evidence for Revision of the Penfield Hypothesis." In Origin and Mechanisms of Hallucinations, ed. W. Keup (New York: Plenum, 1970), pp. 13-22.

8. D. M. Bear and P. Fedio, "Quantitative Analysis of Interictal Behavior in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy," Archives of Neurology 34 (1977): 454-467.

9. N. Geschwind, "Interictal Behavior Changes in Epilepsy," Epilepsia 24 (Suppl. 1) (1983): 523-530.

10. K. Dewhurst and A. W. Beard, "Sudden Religious Conversions in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy," Britishjournal of Psychiatry 117 (1970): 497-507.

11. See n. 2.

12. Persinger, The Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs (New York: Praeger, 1987).

13. M.A. Persinger and K. Makarec, "Temporal Lobe Signs and Correlative Behaviors Displayed by Normal Populations," The journal of General Psychology 114 (1987): 179-195.

14. J. R. Stevens, "Sleep Is for Seizures: A New Interpretation of the Role of Phasic Events in Sleep and Wakefulness." In Sleep and Epilepsy, ed. M. B. Sherman, M. N. Shouse, and P. Passouant (New York: Academic Press,

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16. Bear, "Temporal Lobe Epilepsy: A Syndrome of Sensory Limbic Hyperconnectionism," Cortex 15 (1979): 357-384.

17. L. Sabourin and M.A. Persinger, "Specific Temporal-Lobe Signs and Enhanced Delayed Cross-modal Matching Performance," PMS 64 (1987): 309-310.

18. Persinger, "People Who Report Religious Experiences May Also Display Enhanced Temporal-Lobe Signs," PMS 58 (1984): 963-975. See also Persinger, "Propensity to Report Paranormal Experiences Is Correlated with Temporal Lobe Signs," PMS 59 (1984): 583-586.

19. M.A. Persinger and P.M. Valliant, "Temporal Lobe Signs and Reports of Subjective Paranormal Experiences in a Normal Population: A Replication," PMS 60 (1985): 903-909.

20. K. Makarec and M. A. Persinger, "Temporal Lobe Signs: Electroencephalographic Validity and Enhanced Scores in Special Populations," PMS 60 (1985): 831-842.

21. J. G. Small, 1. F. Small, V. Milstein, and D. F. Moore, "Familial Associations with EEG Variants in Manic- Depressive Disease," Archives of General Psychiat-fy 32 (1975): 43-48.

22. Seen. 19.

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24. Persinger, "MMPI Profiles of Normal People Who Display Frequent Temporal Lobe Signs," PMS 64 (1987): 1112-1114.

25. Persinger, "Temporal Lobe Signs and Personality Characteristics, PMS 66 (1988):49-50.

26. Seen. 13.

27. R. M. Post and T. W. Udhe, "Carbamazepine in the Treatment of Affective Illness." In The Limbic System, ed. Doane and Livingston, PP. 267-283.

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Correlations with Imaginings and Hypnosis Induction Profiles," Psychological Reports 58 (1986): 347-350.

29. J. Ross and M. A. Persinger, "Positive Correlations between Temporal Lobe Signs and Hypnosis Induction Profiles: A Replication," PMS 64

(1987): 828-830.

30. B. Huot and M.A. Persinger, "Temporal Lobe Signs and jungian Personality Factors," Psychological Reports (in press, 1989).

31. D. Lester, J. S.Thinschmidt, and L.A. Trautman, "Paranormal Belief and jungian Dimensions of Personality," Psychological Reports 61 (1987): 182.

32. H. T. Chugani and M. E. Phelps, "Maturational Changes in Cerebral Function in Infants Determined by FDG Positron Emission Tomographyj" Science 231 (1986):840-843.

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39. Lawson, "Perinatal Imagery in UFO Abduction Reports," Journal of

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44. J. Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976).

45. M. LeMay, "Morphological Aspects of Human Brain Asymmetry: An Evolutionary Perspective," Trends in Neurosciences 5, 8 (1982): 273-275.

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48. Seen. 47.

49. Seen. 12.

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52. Seen. 42.

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55. C. von Kirchenheim and M.A. Persinger, "A Comparison of Time Distortion in Hypnotic versus Progressive Relaxation States," International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (in press).

56. P. G. Zimbardo, G. Marshall, G. White, and C. Maslach, "Objective Assessment of Hypnotically Induced Time Distortion," Science 181 (1973): 282-284.

57. Seen. 46.

58. Persinger, "Geophysical Variables and Behavior. XXIL The Tectonogenic Strain Continuum of Unusual Events," PMS 60 (1985): 59-65. See also M. A. Persinger and R. A. Cameron, "Are Earth Faults at Fault in Some Poltergeist-like Episodes?" The Journal of the American Society for Psychical

Research 80 (1986): 49-73.

59. M. Isokawa-Akesson, C. L. Wilson, and T. L. Babb, "Structurally Stable Burst and Synchronized Firing in Human Amygdala Neurons: Autoand Cross-Correlation Analysis in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy," Epilepsy Research 1 (1987): 17-34.

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62. Seen. 12.

63. L. Y. Michaud and M. A. Persinger, "Geophysical Variables and Behavior. XXV: Alterations in Memory for a Narrative Following Application of Theta Frequency Electromagnetic Fields," PMS 60 (1985): 416-418.

64. M.A. Persinger and M. Nolan, "Partial Amnesia for a Narrative Following Application of Theta Frequency Electromagnetic Fields," journal of Bioelectricity 4 (1985): 481-494.

65. C. F * De Sano and M. A. Persinger, "Geophysical Variables and Behavior. XXXIX: Alterations in Imaginings and Suggestibility during Brief Magnetic Field Exposures," PMS 64 (1987): 968-970.

66. Persinger, The Paranomul. Part 11: Mechanisms and Models (New York: M.S.S. Information, 1974).

67. Persinger, "Increased Geomagnetic Activity and the Occurrence of Bereavement Hallucinations: Evidence for Melatonin-Mediated Microseizuring in the Temporal Lobe?" Neuroscience Letters 88 (1988): 271-274.

68. Persinger, "Striking EEG Profiles from Single Episodes of Glossalalia and Transcendental Meditation," PMS 58 (1984): 127-133.

69. Seen. 12.

70. 0. L. Rogers and W. J . Jackson, 'The Effect of Hypophysectomy ACTH Fragments and Thalamic Lesions upon Kindled Epilepsy," Brairt Research 403 (1987): 96-104.

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