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Paranormal Beliefs Linked To Brain Chemistry

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 656 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... PARANORMAL BELIEFS LINKED TO BRAIN CHEMISTRY By Helen
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 29, 2002
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      NHNE News List
      Current Members: 656
      Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message.


      By Helen Philips
      New Scientist
      July 27, 2002

      Whether or not you believe in the paranormal may depend entirely on your
      brain chemistry. People with high levels of dopamine are more likely to find
      significance in coincidences, and pick out meaning and patterns where there
      are none.

      Peter Brugger, a neurologist from the University Hospital in Zurich,
      Switzerland, has suggested before that people who believe in the paranormal
      often seem to be more willing to see patterns or relationships between
      events where sceptics perceive nothing.

      To find out what could be triggering these thoughts, Brugger persuaded 20
      self-confessed believers and 20 sceptics to take part in an experiment.

      Brugger and his colleagues asked the two groups to distinguish real faces
      from scrambled faces as the images were flashed up briefly on a screen. The
      volunteers then did a similar task, this time identifying real words from
      made-up ones.

      Seeing and believing

      Believers were much more likely than sceptics to see a word or face when
      there was not one, Brugger revealed last week at a meeting of the Federation
      of European Neuroscience Societies in Paris. However, sceptics were more
      likely to miss real faces and words when they appeared on the screen.

      The researchers then gave the volunteers a drug called L-dopa, which is
      usually used to relieve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease by increasing
      levels of dopamine in the brain.

      Both groups made more mistakes under the influence of the drug, but the
      sceptics became more likely to interpret scrambled words or faces as the
      real thing.

      That suggests that paranormal thoughts are associated with high levels of
      dopamine in the brain, and the L-dopa makes sceptics less sceptical.
      "Dopamine seems to help people see patterns," says Brugger.

      Plateau effect

      However, the single dose of the drug did not seem to increase the tendency
      of believers to see coincidences or relationships between the words and

      That could mean that there is a plateau effect for them, with more dopamine
      having relatively little effect above a certain threshold, says Peter
      Krummenacher, one of Brugger's colleagues.

      Dopamine is an important chemical involved in the brain's reward and
      motivation system, and in addiction. Its role in the reward system may be to
      help us decide whether information is relevant or irrelevant, says Françoise
      Schenk from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.


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