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Observations and Comments on Transformation of Brain Activity in Altered States of Consciousness by 0. I. Koyokina, MISAHA Newsletter #20-21, January-June, 1998

M. Allan Cooperstein, Ph.D.

In Cooperstein, Allan (1999, January-December). Observations and comments on the transformation of  brain activity in altered states of consciousness by O. I. Koyokina (pp. 16-17). MISAHA Newsletter. Monterey, CA: Monterey Institute for the Study of Alternative Healing Arts.

Considering how little is known about the psychophysiology and neurophysiology of the central nervous system in altered states of consciousness, Dr. Koyokina's research is a welcome addition to our scant information base. How­ever, in reading her article I had a number of reactions that I wish to share:

    • The article is written inappropriately for readers not familiar with neurophysiology and neurophysiological measurements. We cannot assume that the majority of MISAHA subscribers can interpret the information presented or its implications.

    • The literature review is extremely narrow and limited and primarily related to neurophysiological measures of brain functioning associated with the altered consciousness and purported parapsychological phenomena. Studies conducted in other countries are not considered (J. Ehrenwald, Psi Phenomena, Hemispheric Dominance and the Existential Shift. In Psi and States of Aware­ness [B. Shapin & L. Coly, Eds., Parapsychology Foun­dation, New York, 1978], S. L. Fahrion, M. Wirkus & P. Pooley. EEG Amplitude, Brain Mapping, & Synchrony in & Between a Bioenergy Practitioner & Client During Healing, Subtle Energies, 3, 1, 1992, pp. 19‑5 1, H Sugano, S. Uchida & 1, Kuramoto, A New Approach to the Study of Subtle Energies, Subtle Energies, 5, 2, 1994, 143‑166; J. L. Whitton, "Ramp Functions" in EEG Power Spectra During Actual or Attempted Paranormal Events, New Horizon, 1, 1974, pp. 174‑183).

    • Terminology tends to be confusing. "Bioenergy" (as stated on page 8) should not be assumed as describing ordinary bioelectrical or biochemical energies as other interpretations exist (e.g., Benor, D. J., 1984, Fields and Energies Related to Healing: A Review of Soviet and Western Studies. Parapsychology Research; Grad, B. R., 1987, Healing, Depression, and the Bioenergetic Para­digm Spiritual Frontiers 19:154-158; Krieger, D., 1976, Healing by the Laying-on of Hands as a Facilitator of Bioenergetic Exchange: The Response of in vivo Human Hemoglobin, International Journal for Psychoenergetic Systems 1(3):121-129; Krippner, S., 1985, Folk Healing Practices and "Energy Related" Medicine. Annual Medical Symposium, Association for Research and Enlightenment Clinic. Phoenix, AZ, January 27). In my research (Cooperstein, M. A. 1990, The myths of healing: A descriptive analysis and taxonomy of transpersonal healing experiences. Unpublished doctoral dissertation Saybrook Institute, San Francisco, CA.) I indicated that belief in "energy" was one of the primary beliefs found among healers and not necessarily with any consistency or any agreement. This same error applies to references to such terms as "psi" which, although used in a number of instances, is not defined.

    • My research predicted a shift towards decreased sympa­thetic arousal, increased parasympathetic activity, and a shift away from ordinary cerebral activities including reduced control of the dominant, verbal-analytic hemisphere, increased hemispheric equivalence and the production of specific power spectra that may be related to purported healing/influencing or psi phenomena. The reduced activity of the dominant hemisphere may be a precursor to the appearance of hemispheric synchronization and changes in power spectra. The researcher reports that, during the initial stages of ASC induction, muscular and psychological relaxation were detected with alpha rhythm detected in the frontal areas (problem solving, emotion, complex thought) with increased amplitude and low frequency (3-4 Hz) waves. The greatest amplitude is shown at Cz and Fz, but the meaning of these abbreviations or the func­tions they detect is not provided clearly, although the researcher states that during the first stage of transition to an altered state, there are increases in low frequency power spectrum--delta and theta rhythms-- over the entire brain surface while power spectra in alpha and beta regions decreased. She describes this as characteristic of an inactive inhibited state of the cortex with "splashes" of high-amplitude low-frequency waves alternating with periods typical for normal awakening for phases of dream­ing. This is consistent with the results of my research and that of Michael Winkelman (1984, A cross-cultural study of magico-religious practitioners. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Irvine).

    • Also of interest are the measures of the dipole sources in relation to deep brain structures that are interhemispheric. These may include the reticular formation and medial thalamus. The author states "the observed inhibited state of the cerebral areas of brain which is associated with the inhibition of Psychical in the transient states of ASC, most likely provides a necessary background for reordering some functions and internal connections in the brain related to the opening of alternative channels of perception and information transfer."

    • As predicted in other writings, the data here seem to indi­cate a shift from emphasis on higher-functioning cortical activities (discursive thought, volition, language, reasoning and perception) towards greater midbrain (thalamic) and brainstem functioning (e.g., arousal level, breathing, heart rate and blood pressure). Again, this is consistent with other findings.

    • To summarize, despite its shortcomings this is a valuable neurophysiological first step into the psychophysiology of altered states. However, it appears seriously lacking in grounding its conceptualization in existing research and use of obscure, ill-defined and non-operationalized terminology. To advance her work, the researcher would profit from a more extensive review of literature. This should also include not only neurophysiological studies performed in other countries on parapsychological percipients, but other studies involving the phenomenology of parapsy­chological, hypnotic and meditative subjects.

Reply to Cooperstein

I fully accept the critique of my paper by Dr. Allan Cooperstein and will try to answer some of the questions posed that. I hope, will clarify our work.

As Dr. Cooperstein rightfully states, the review of relevant scientific literature in my article should be much broader. The problem is that until recently scientific publications on topics such as hypnosis, parapsychology, effects associated with meditation, etc., were not available in Russian scientific libraries. Only now these libraries are trying to catch up, but their resources are scarce. Commercial publishers are busy serving more popular markets. The only source now avail­able is the Internet and a few Russian Journals who publish predominantly Russian authors. Thus, Dr. Cooperstein's references are really valuable to me.

The most interesting part of Dr. Cooperstein's letter is his references to his own studies. I understand that the EEG changes in the transient state described in my article were previously observed and reported, and that they are typical for transition into drowsiness and regular sleep. However, this should not mean that this transient state is associated only with the inhibition of the cortex. Our assumption was that during this stage conditions are built for possible even­tual development of processes relevant to the altered state of consciousness (ASC). My work hints to a possible mechanism of developing the ASC. The sources of electrical activity in the brain shown in fig.3 seem to form a channel in the interhemispheric area over the rostral parts of the brain stem.

My recent findings encourage me to call attention to the process of forming the channel (tunnel) in the ASC that can relate human consciousness with extrasensory perception. The EEG of a meditating operator (I refer to an original method of meditation called "flying hamsters") being treated in the "Brainlock" program shows a gradual (delayed) forming of a channel in the interhemispheric area directed toward the forehead. The operator being in a state of deep meditation perceived and reported the channel simultaneously. I will present a paper on this subject at the conference of the L. L. Vassilliev Parapsychological Foundation on April 16, 1999.

0. Koyokina


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