That being said, none of the articles that I ever wrote come close to the fabulous summary posted on the blog of Jon Lieff, MD. His article, Meditation and the Brain 2013, presents detailed but approachable overview of the latest scientific research into the benefits of meditation, Tai Chi and yoga.
The benefits of these practices span a wide spectrum of human activity, such as physical health, mental health, dealing with pain and creativity.
Today I’m glad to present interview with Annalisa Ventola. I first got to know her through her blog, Public Parapsychology. These days she’s the Executive Director of the Parapsychological Association. This interview was taken over email.
Annalisa, could you please tell our readers about yourself.
I'm also a composer, performer, and music teacher. I have a small, private studio of 20-30 young pianists who see me once a week for tutoring. I also perform original piano/vocal music around Columbus, Ohio and have an EP album in development (http://www.annalisaventola.com/).
Could you describe the Parapsychological Association, how does it differ from other psi research associations (SPR, for example)
The Parapsychological Association is a professional association of scientists and scholars engaged in the study of psi (or 'psychic') experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition. The PA is similar to the structure of other kinds of professional academic associations, but unique in the types of members that it attracts and the programs that it offers.
Our professional membership is primarily made up of college and university professors, clinicians, counselors, and independent researchers who engage in psi research. The PA supports their work with publications like the Journal of Parapsychology and the Mindfield Bulletin, research grants, yearly awards and annual conventions. Additionally, the PA publishes a set of ethical standards by which our professional members abide.
What do you do at Parapsychological Association?
I am responsible for implementing the PA Board's plans and policies, managing general operations, recruiting and supervising staff and volunteers, conducting the official correspondence of the PA and communicating with PA membership and the general public.
What about your own research?
Lately my personal research efforts have taken a back seat to the PA's administrative needs, but prior to working for the PA, I was doing field research on haunting and poltergeist experiences. I assisted Devin Terhune and James Houran in a large-scale study that was funded by the Society for Scientific Exploration's Young Investigators Program (http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_21_1_terhune.pdf). It was a double-blind field study that investigated the physical characteristics of a reputedly haunted residence compared to the thoroughly "unhaunted" residence next door. Positive results from that study had me spending several years pursuing the question of how to evaluate photographic anomalies and work with expert consultants (The Parapsychological Association, Inc. 52nd Annual Convention Abstracts of Presented Papers – page 23).
More recently, I've worked with fellow parapsychologist Bryan Williams on several self-published primers created to assist paranormal enthusiasts in adopting parapsychological methods in their own field investigations. Each of our primers contains a thorough literature review on the topic under study followed by tips on how to put the knowledge from previous research into practice. So far we've covered temperature, magnetism, apparitional experiences, and poltergeist phenomena. The primers can be downloaded at http://www.annalisaventola.com/research/.
Please tell about the PA conferences. Who is the target audience? What interesting events or lectures took place at previous ones?
The annual convention of the Parapsychological Association – now in its 56th year – is where the parapsychological community comes together to present and discuss the latest research developments taking place in universities and private laboratories around the world. The target audience is generally academic, though the event is always open to the public.
At our last PA convention in Durham, North Carolina, two events come to mind as particularly interesting. One was a workshop chaired by Dr. Athena Drewes titled "Understanding and Responding to Child and Adult Psi Experiences". The workshop focused on the recognizing the differences between healthy and unhealthy paranormal experiences and how clinical parapsychologists can assist the mental health system in "de-pathologizing psi".
The other event was the annual J.B. Rhine address, which was given by Prof. Thomas Robisheaux of Duke University in Durham. Prof. Robisheaux is a historian and an engaging storyteller. In his address, he used the story of Psyche and Eros as an allegory for the major turning points in the study parapsychological phenomena. The way he weaved these threads together was quite brilliantly done.
Duke University history professsor Thomas Robisheaux, Ph.D., discusses ‘Looking for Psyche: Historical Reflections on Parapsychology, Psychical Research, and the Anomalous Experience’ at PA’s Annual Convention.
What do you look forward to in the upcoming conference in Viterbo?
Right now what I'm looking forward to most is the accommodations and the food! I've been tracking Ora Domus La Quercia on Facebook and their food pictures make me salivate. I love to eat new foods when I travel and I can't wait to sample their fare.
The PA program Committee is still at work on the program, and until they are done I won't be able to say much more about what is happening at the Viterbo convention. However, Dr. Simon Thorpe has been invited to deliver the J.B. Rhine address this year. He is the research director of the Brain and Cognitive Research Center (CerCo) at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Toulouse, France. He will be speaking on the possible implications of psi for cognitive neuroscience and thinking about the nature of mind and consciousness. This should be a very interesting talk.
What do you wish that people knew about parapsychology?
I wish that more people understood that parapsychology is an academic discipline and that in some parts of the world it is fully integrated in the university system. For example, in the United Kingdom there are 16 universities involved in teaching and/or researching parapsychology or anomalistic psychology. Anomalistic psychology is on the pre-university (A-level) psychology syllabus. And in 2010, the government-funded Higher Education Academy (HEA) organized a meeting for academics teaching parapsychology, which helped to firmly establish parapsychology and anomalistic psychology as legitimate sub-disciplines of psychology within UK academia.
Why does psi research have a hard time to be accepted in the mainstream science, in your opinion?
I would argue that psi research has already been accepted into mainstream science, even if its results remain controversial. The Parapsychological Association has been an affiliated organization of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science since 1969, which gives parapsychologists a forum to present their research findings to the larger scientific community. And as recently as 2011, the AAAS hosted a symposium titled "Quantum Retrocausation: Theory and Experiment" where several PA professional members were invited to speak.
2011 also saw the publication of Daryl Bem's "Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect" in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology – a paper that presented positive evidence for precognition in a high impact journal with a circulation of over 1300 subscribers.
Mindfield: The Bulletin of the Parapsychological Association hosts a regular column by PA Vice President Gerd Hövelmann titled "Articles Relevant to Parapsychology in the Journals of Various Fields." The latest installment of this bibliography has brought the total number of references to 715 articles since its inception in 2009.
These kinds of developments suggest to me that when it comes to mainstream science, parapsychology has already been given a seat at the table. However, science is far from an objective enterprise. Just like any system that attempts to establish truth or knowledge, scientific research is vulnerable to one's self-limiting beliefs, cultural assumptions, and organizational politics, as well as governmental and general socioeconomic concerns. Despite all that, scientists can -and should – at least aspire to objectivity, and many of my colleagues do this exceptionally well.
What do you think about the discussion that took place on TED site regarding the talks of Rupert Sheldrake?
The TED-Sheldrake controversy was heart breaking for me because prior to that I was a huge fan of TED talks. My husband and I recently purchased a smart TV with an app that brought TED talks directly to our television, and when all of that went down, I was positively addicted – watching at least 4-5 TED lectures per day. Since then, mine and TED's "bad breakup" has been a running joke with my friends.
Previous to the controversy, I had been under the impression that TED had a balanced approach to popularizing scientific and scholarly research, not just from the my initial engagement with their Sheldrake and Hancock talks, but after seeing excellent talks by people like Jeffrey Kripal and Cassandra Vieten among others. But there came a point when TED Conferences, LLC attempted to demonstrate that they were in the position to demarcate between science and pseudoscience. Their boilerplate criticisms – which had very little correspondence to the actual content of Sheldrake's talk – suggested to me that they were not up for the task. Fortunately, the incident has only shed more light on the valuable work of parapsychologists and consciousness researchers around the world. This has resulted in even wider support for the work that we do.
Where do you see parapsychology 10 years from now? 50 years?
Information technology is changing quickly and professional organizations like the PA have had to adapt to keep up. More and more, consumers of scientific research are demanding that organizations provide free and open access to their resources online. However, maintaining the quality of those resources requires a staff – editors, managers, proofers, etc.- and those resources are generally require funding. Just about every academic organization is facing this problem right now. Those who can effectively navigate the transition will be leading the organizations that flourish 10 years from now.
I'm encouraged to find students who are organizing their efforts to fill in some of the gaps as information technology expands. Recently we've seen freely available publications like Paranthropology and the Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology emerge – publications founded by PA Student Members – with PA Professional Members occasionally contributing. The youth of the field are shaping new digital technologies and making them available to more established professionals. It may sound cliché to say that the youth are our future, but I see something unusual happening here.
The digital age is also bringing together the Western/Eastern and Northern/Southern hemispheres, and as researchers from different continents continue to network with each other, new terminology and new metaphors for understanding consciousness and explaining psi phenomena will emerge. At this point, parapsychology is very much a Western science – which is rooted in Western ways of thinking and Western concepts of self. But over the years, more and more Asian and South American researchers have been joining our ranks. Just recently, the PA has welcomed its first Arabic-speaking Professional Member. And for the last two years, the PA has been guided by our first South American President.
Fifty years from now, we can look forward to parapsychology developing into a multi-cultural science – less encumbered by limitations of a single worldview and thus more aware of our own assumptions. This blending of worldviews will bolster our aspirations toward objectivity – even if the results of our studies suggest that there may be no such thing.
My sincere gratitude to Annalisa for taking the time to answer my questions. Make sure to take a look at her blog, the PA web site and its conference.
Julie Beischel, PhD, of the Windbridge Institute conducts a research to examine the potential clinical benefits of personal mediumship readings, especially during bereavement. The project is called the Bereavement And Mediumship (BAM) Study.
You can see the video where she describes the study below. They are also looking for some donations to conduct the study and you can donate by visiting here. The Web site of the project is http://www.afterlifescience.com/.
Update: On April 2, the newspaper wrote a further article where they report on the leading savant researcher, Dr. Darold A. Treffert, expressing interest in the case.
The Khaleej Times newspaper site reports of an intriguing case of a 9-year-old Indian girl, diagnosed with autism and ADHD, who can telepathically read her mother’s mind. And quite well, it appears.
The article has some some background about the girl and her family but to me the more interesting parts were the tests that the newspaper reporters performed with the girl and, following the newspaper’s inquiry, the tests that were performed later by a group of specialists from the Child Guidance Clinic in Sharjah.
The specialist psychiatrist at Sunny Speciality Medical Centre in Sharjah, Dr Jeena Fiji, who headed the team, has certified witnessing “the strength of Nandana to read her mother’s thoughts, desires and intentions.”
The results of all tests showed that the girl could type on a computer or say words, numbers or whole sentences that her mother was thinking, either sitting across her in the same room or even while being in a different room in the house.
Here are some more quotations from the article. The first is from the test arranged by the newspaper:
In our test, Sandhya was first given a note. It read “044050799 – the office number of Khaleej Times.” As soon as she read it in her mind, Sandhya sat with Nandana across a table. The computer was kept in such a way that the keyboard faced the daughter and the monitor faced the mother.
When her mother asked her to start typing, Nandana started keying in the numbers without even constantly looking at her mother. As she typed 044050799, it became evident to us that the child can actually read her mind!
The second test consisted of a whole sentence:
When Nandana successfully completed the first test, we decided to try her telepathic skill. This time the note given to her mother read: “Can I have some warm water please?”
The result came out as a sentence without any space between the words and with some minor spelling mistakes in between. But, it was still as amazing as the first instance.
The tests that were done at a later time by the above experts:
Nandana had come with her mother Sandhya Unnikrishnan. A poem of Grade 2 level was written and given to Sandhya. After her mother had read the poem in her mind, Nandana was asked to type in the laptop provided to her.
Nandana could type the entire poem without any prompt. A six digit number was also written and given to Sandhya, which too, Nandana could type after reading her mother’s mind.
You can read the entire article and see the photographs of the girl in the original article on Khaleej Times: Miracle girl.
You can follow and participate in a discussion on this topic in the Skeptiko forum thread “Psychic girl“.
Back in 2007 I wrote an article about Rupert Sheldrake [experiment with the talking parrot](http://www.mind-energy.net/archives/252-Parrot-demonstrating-telepathy-the-NKisi-project.html), N’kisi.
In that experiment Rupert, together with parrot’s owner, Aimee Morgana, tested the bird for a possible telepathic link between it and Aimee.
The results were published in a paper and suggested strong above-chance results for the parrot having a psychic connection to Aimee.
The news is a recently-published YouTube video from Rupert Sheldrake’s lecture where he tells about this experiment. And this video contains a footage from the experiment. It’s remarkable, touching, and funny.
I originally learned of the video from the [Skeptiko podcast forum](http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/) and you might want to read what [others in the community have to say about this video](http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/4615-rupert-sheldrake-presents-footage-psychic-parrot.html) and even join the discussion.
Cassi Vieten and Dean Radin of IONS (Institute of Noetic Sciences), announced a planned experiment at Burning Man 2012 to test Mind over Matter interaction. The participants will try to affect a Random Number Generator (RNG) using their minds. Their efforts will be visualized using a “Huge Freakin’ Laser”, as they say. The laser will turn greener as the deviation increases and more red as it increases.
The organizers believe that the large number of people present at Burning Man will have a mesurable effect on the RNGs. Dean Radin has performed similar experiments in a laboratory conditions, even with online participants but taking it into the public and into such a large event as Burning Man may have even better results and also an increased media exposure.
IONS is asking the public to support the experiment financially. Their goal is to raise $2000 “to pay for computers, RNGs, lasers, etc”.
The Atlantic University is conducting an interesting study and asks people to participate in an online survey.
Below is the message from the researchers:
We are interested in learning more about a variety of human experiences, some of which are unusual, but are by no means uncommon in the general population. We are undertaking an online survey to explore individual differences, synesthesia (the tendency for some people to experience two senses together, e.g., colored words or numbers; tasting shapes; spatially organized calendars, etc.), and a variety of anomalous experiences (for example, extrasensory perception).
We would very much appreciate it if you would take the time to complete this online questionnaire, even if you have never experienced the things described on the questionnaire.
Please email Dr. Christine Simmonds-Moore if you have any questions about the survey.
Christine Simmonds-Moore, Ph.D.
University of West Georgia, firstname.lastname@example.org
About a year ago I reviewed a great new film about the research in parapsychology called “Something Unknown” which was filmed and produced by Renée Scheltema from South Africa. I have also recorded and published an interview with Renée. You might want to read both articles, if you missed them.
The famous biologist and parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake gave a talk at Schumacher college in the UK. In this talk he presented his various research projects about telepathy, in animals and in people.
He presented his “Dogs that know when their owners are coming home” experiment with the dog Jaytee and showed an experiment video that was done for Austrian television on that. This is a very famous experiment and I’d like to hear if any of you know of a similar behavior with your pets.
He also talked about phone telepathy and showed another video of an experiment between 5 sisters which had a hit rate of 50% instead of the expected 25%. Sheldrake told that the overall hit in over 1000 trials of telephone telepathy is 42%, which is highly statistically significant. Do you sometimes know who calls you?
Sheldrake performs simple and low-cost experiments for testing telepathy, mostly because the established science hold these subjects as taboo and doesn’t provide funds. Dr. Sheldrake talks a little about this as well, in his introduction to the lecture.
Lately, I have found about a new study that took place in Wake Forest University School of Medicine, NC, USA. The new study is titled “Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training” and you can read its abstract on the U.S. National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health.
The authors tried to see if the unexperienced meditators had any benefits from meditation after only several days of simple meditation. They also had a control group that listened to an audio book, instead of meditating. The results were that meditation was more beneficiary in many aspects. From the abstract:
We examined whether brief meditation training affects cognition and mood when compared to an active control group. After four sessions of either meditation training or listening to a recorded book, participants with no prior meditation experience were assessed with measures of mood, verbal fluency, visual coding, and working memory. Both interventions were effective at improving mood but only brief meditation training reduced fatigue, anxiety, and increased mindfulness. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning.
The group only had 4 days of meditation (20 minutes each day) and the benefits were already apparent. The authors of the article also suggest that in more experienced meditators the beneficial effect should be more profound.