[ExI] But speaking of psi...

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Mon Dec 17 18:29:56 UTC 2007

A new paper co-authored by the important 
cognitive scientist Stephen Kosslyn argues that 
their fMRI study shows that psi does not exist, 
or at any rate was not detectable by these means:


Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 20:1, pp. 182–192

"Using Neuroimaging to Resolve the Psi Debate"
Samuel T. Moulton and Stephen M. Kosslyn

Parapsychology is the scientific investigation of apparently
paranormal mental phenomena (such as telepathy, i.e., ‘‘mind
reading’’), also known as psi. Despite widespread public belief
in such phenomena and over 75 years of experimentation, there
is no compelling evidence that psi exists. In the present study,
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used in an
effort to document the existence of psi. If psi exists, it occurs in
the brain, and hence, assessing the brain directly should be
more sensitive than using indirect behavioral methods (as have
been used previously). To increase sensitivity, this experiment
was designed to produce positive results if telepathy, clairvoyance
(i.e., direct sensing of remote events), or precognition (i.e.,
knowing future events) exist. Moreover, the study included
biologically or emotionally related participants (e.g., twins) and
emotional stimuli in an effort to maximize experimental conditions
that are purportedly conducive to psi. In spite of these
characteristics of the study, psi stimuli and non-psi stimuli
evoked indistinguishable neuronal responses—although differences
in stimulus arousal values of the same stimuli had the
expected effects on patterns of brain activation. These findings
are the strongest evidence yet obtained against the existence of
paranormal mental phenomena.


Given that the authors note: "Out of 3687 
recorded responses, they correctly guessed the 
psi stimulus 1842 times (50.0%). None of the results
from any individual participant deviated from 
what would be expected on the basis of chance 
variation alone" it is not surprising that they 
found no notable fMRI correlates. I will be 
interested to see what shows up if a study along 
these lines is conducted that first achieves a 
significant difference from chance expectation.

Damien Broderick

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