Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
As you can tell from the title, this is a rather esoteric topic. Nevertheless, I got to thinking about it and I wanted to share my musings. Here is the link to the original article that got my attention:
An operation to control her epilepsy left Karen Byrne with no control of her left hand
Imagine being attacked by one of your own hands, which repeatedly tries to slap and punch you. Or you go into a shop and when you try to turn right, one of your legs decides it wants to go left, leaving you walking round in circles.
Last summer I met 55-year-old Karen Byrne in New Jersey, who suffers from Alien Hand Syndrome.
Her left hand, and occasionally her left leg, behaves as if it were under the control of an alien intelligence.
Karen’s condition is fascinating, not just because it is so strange but because it tells us something surprising about how our own brains work.
It started after Karen had surgery at 27 to control her epilepsy, which had dominated her life since she was 10.
Surgery to cure epilepsy usually involves identifying and then cutting out a small section of the brain, where the abnormal electrical signals originate.
When this does not work, or when the damaged area cannot be identified, patients may be offered something more radical. In Karen’s case her surgeon cut her corpus callosum, a band of nervous fibres which keeps the two halves of the brain in constant contact.
Cutting the corpus callosum cured Karen’s epilepsy, but left her with a completely different problem. Karen told me that initially everything seemed to be fine. Then her doctors noticed some extremely odd behaviour.
“Dr O’Connor said ‘Karen what are you doing? Your hand’s undressing you’. Until he said that I had no idea that my left hand was opening up the buttons of my shirt.
“So I start rebuttoning with the right hand and, as soon as I stopped, the left hand started unbuttoning them. So he put an emergency call through to one of the other doctors and said, ‘Mike you’ve got to get here right away, we’ve got a problem’.”
The left hand is controlled by the right side of the brain and the right hand by the left side of the brain. When the two halves of her brain stopped talking to each other, a conflict started between her right and left side which she could not control. According to the article, some people even attack themselves.
So how can this affect psychic ability? Well, we know that psychic ability is not a logical process . . . at all. Attempting to analyze information in progress will make it disappear. It’s just the wrong focus. If the actual reception of psychic information is a completely right brain experience, which is then processed by the left brain, then subconsciously, the left brain may be causing havoc in the interpretation deliberately, without our being aware of it.
Here is where it gets interesting:
The man who did many of the experiments that first proved this was neurobiologist, Roger Sperry.
In a particularly striking experiment, which he filmed, we can watch one of the split brain patients trying to solve a puzzle. The puzzle required rearranging blocks so they matched the pattern on a picture.
First the man tried solving it with his left hand (controlled by the right hemisphere), and that hand was pretty good at it.
Then Sperry asked the patient to use his right hand (controlled by the left hemisphere). And this hand clearly did not have a clue what to do. So the left hand tried to help, but the right hand did not want help, so they ended up fighting like two young children.
Experiments like this led Sperry to conclude that “each hemisphere is a conscious system in its own right, perceiving, thinking, remembering, reasoning, willing, and emoting”.
Normally, the left hemisphere is dominant, but as psychic people, we know that we are a bit different. How exactly, does it work for us? I know from many conversations, e-mails and comments that the psychic people I have known are quite capable of analytical reasoning, -in some cases far better reasoning than so called “logical” people.- Yet we also have highly creative sides, all of us, indicating a preference for right brain activity. Men in particular, if they are highly psychic, tend to ramble a bit, or a lot in their conversations, which stay on topic while skipping around on the details. The overall coherence, yet non linear nature of their communication suggest a very developed right brain and somewhat weaker left side. We need to operate on the left sides of our brains for a lot of the ordinary activities of life, so it’s not surprising that it’s dominant, particularly in a society of computers, ipads and blackberries. Intuition is just not gonna work. People such as this woman are experiencing internal conflict. All the operation does is demonstrate it in graphic detail. How much is the left side of our brain doing the same thing to us?
The struggle outlined in the brain experiment reminds me of the “no, no, don’t help me. I can figure it out.” mentality of so many people. Is this not one of the problems of the Afghan war? The generals have too much left brain dominance and are fighting to believe that somehow, they can solve that hopeless quagmire? Perhaps fighting against the better judgment of their right brains? Perhaps this is the problem of skeptics of all stripes? Too much left brain activity prevents them from gaining an overall picture of things. They fight the details while the big picture gets away from them.
All good questions for which I have no answers. The idea that our brains have two forms of consciousness that can be at war with each other is an interesting concept. Is the left brain the one that holds the picture of ordinary reality for us while the right brain holds the spiritual connection? Could be. I don’t know. But it’s an interesting idea and having this information may lead to new discoveries of how consciousness works.