New Study Finds that Mediumship May Be a Distinct Mental State

The Deceased on 'The Other Side'

A new study co-authored by (among others) Dean Radin and Julie Beischel has found that electrocortical activity during mediumistic 'communication' is distinctly different than during other contemplative moments such as thinking about living or imaginary people. The research was done to explore two questions: possible correlations between the accuracy of mediums’ statements and the electrical activity in their brain; and the differences in mediums’ brain activity when they intentionally evoked four different subjective states.

To do so, the researchers collected psychometric and brain electrophysiology data from "six individuals who had previously reported accurate information about deceased individuals under double-blind conditions" (ie. mediums - or more accurately, mediums previously accredited by Julie Beischel's Windbridge Institute). Each experimental participant performed two tasks with eyes closed. In the first task, the medium was given the first name of a deceased person and asked 25 questions, after which they were asked to silently perceive information relevant to the question for 20 seconds and then respond. These responses were then scored for accuracy by individuals who knew the deceased persons. Researchers found that of the four mediums whose accuracy could be evaluated, three scored significantly above chance (p < 0.03). One of the mediums also showed a highly significant correlation between accuracy and brain activity in frontal theta.

In the second task, participants were asked to experience four mental states for 1 min each, a process that was repeated three times: (1) thinking about a known living person, (2) listening to a biography, (3) thinking about an imaginary person, and (4) interacting mentally with a known deceased person. Interestingly, statistically significant differences in electrocortical activity among the four mental states were found in all six participants, leading the researchers to conclude that the differences in electrocortical activity "suggest that the impression of communicating with the deceased may be a distinct mental state distinct from ordinary thinking or imagination".

Here's the conclusion of the paper, in the authors' words:

To conclude, we believe the results for Medium 1, correlating accuracy with electrocortical activity, qualify as a robust finding. The results regarding differences in gamma power bands between different mental states remains puzzling as the gamma difference we observed seems to arise, at least in part, from eye or muscular activity. The characterization of the exact nature of this difference in the gamma frequency band, and assessing whether any of this activity originates from the brain, calls for additional research. Taken together, the study’s findings suggest that the experience of communicating with the deceased may be a distinct mental state that is not consistent with brain activity during ordinary thinking or imagination.

For more information on scientific research into mediumship, check out my recent book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife and also Julie Beischel's memoir on her work, Among Mediums: A Scientist's Quest for Answers.

Link: "Electrocortical activity associated with subjective communication with the deceased"

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pov's picture
Member since:
16 July 2013
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23 weeks 2 days

My "very non mainstream materialism" explorations would lead me to agree with that. Communicating with entities not in the same physical is a different "mental" (TBH It doesn't feel like, and I don't think it's about, "mental") state. Which I sometimes get frustrated as there are times when I just don't make my way into that space.

On a slight tangent I'd also say that what many call imagination is more accurately just "thinking about." Genuine imagination (or the imaginal state) is also another distinct state.

nil's picture
Member since:
19 May 2013
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8 weeks 1 day

I will read the full paper out of respect whenI have time, however after reading this here:

Ok, 1 out of several "mediums" who previously were lucky was lucky once more and got something "right". The medium displayed increase in frontal theta. Is this surprising? Do people when meditating get information from the dead? Never heard anyone claim this.

The "mediums" who were not lucky in this test, did also they display increase in frontal theta during test when successfully entering their "special" state (which then naturally would NOT correlate with the flow of information from the realms beyond)?

When going into a meditative state (what the "medium" likely does), electrocortical activity was different from performing tasks like listening to spoken text versus concentrating about a factual person versus imagining a person. Is meditative state not expected to be different from these other "control" tasks?

Also, dead people who are not willing to provide correct information for whatever reason that might arise on the other side, may elect to give false information to the "medium". The "communication" in fact takes place. Unfortunately, the current experimental design would fail to pick up such important evidence. Maybe a further study could address this better.

The team seems to have quite some success recently unravelling the communication with the dead and the special skills of "mediums". A study of the chemical composition of ectoplasm emanating from a "medium" would be killer.

I am not a skeptic, but have been growing more and more sceptical recently.
In my opinion, as much as possible of this research should be published, so the theoretical framework becomes clear and the problems associated with it. By limiting exposure to esoteric journals, the criticism will not be optimal, and defence will always be "yeah, just sceptics, but we know they are against us" etc., only by exposing the research to mainstream criticism, the quality og this research can receive fair evaluation.

pov's picture
Member since:
16 July 2013
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23 weeks 2 days
nil wrote:

Do people when meditating get information from the dead? Never heard anyone claim this.

That depends on what you mean by "mediating" If you mean "being in an altered state where one's attention isn't on the standard physical" then yes many people have experienced getting info from those not in that physical framework.

It's also important to bear in mind that most people who have these experiences don't write books, or start websites, based on them.

jfly's picture
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13 December 2013
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43 weeks 3 hours
nil wrote:

I will read the full paper out of respect whenI have time

Yes, do read the paper. This will clarify much about the study for you - based on your comments (e.g., the one below), you are clearly at a loss of understanding its methodology and results. Apologies for being brusque - I personally always make sure I am amply informed before I publish comments.

nil wrote:

Ok, 1 out of several "mediums" who previously were lucky was lucky once more and got something "right". The medium displayed increase in frontal theta. Is this surprising? Do people when meditating get information from the dead? Never heard anyone claim this.

How well versed are you in the literature on the research and phenomenology of altered states of consciousness associated with forms of meditation? ...Yeah, many meditators who enter certain visionary states of consciousness encounter what are claimed to be deceased entities. Regardless, no one is saying that the appearance of frontal theta by itself is a surprising finding - that is not at all the thrust of this study's findings or what it intended to investigate. (i.e., see article abstract.)

nil wrote:

Also, dead people who are not willing to provide correct information for whatever reason that might arise on the other side, may elect to give false information to the "medium". The "communication" in fact takes place.

Possibly. But this speculation is unfalsifiable/untestable, and thus not amenable to scientific investigation.

nil wrote:

In my opinion, as much as possible of this research should be published, so the theoretical framework becomes clear and the problems associated with it. By limiting exposure to esoteric journals, the criticism will not be optimal, and defence will always be "yeah, just sceptics, but we know they are against us" etc., only by exposing the research to mainstream criticism, the quality og this research can receive fair evaluation.

It is the goal of perhaps every scientist doing research in parapsychology that psi research one day be widely accepted and incorporated into the mainstream body of science. The way in which this happens, of course, is by getting research briefs published in mainstream scientific journals. So its near-impossible for me to agree with you that the researchers authoring this article are intentionally opting to "limit their exposure to esoteric journals" where "criticism will not be optimal". In fact, the opposite seems closer to the truth.

Given the historical controversy surrounding parapsychology, publishing an article such as this one would be anathema for most editors of mainstream scientific journals. It's widely known that such mainstream journals are heavily biased against publishing psi-research, regardless of any objective standards/criteria, and that they actively suppress dissent against mainstream theory. Do solely to politics, it's very difficult for much of scientific research - regardless of it's methodological rigor - to get published in prominent mainstream journals (See, Jefferson and the Cochrane Methods Group, 2003, on the peer review process).

And do tell: what is your basis for implying that the journal which published this article - Frontiers in Psychology - is somehow suboptimal in terms of its critical appraisal of research? Furthermore, Frontiers in Psychology is hardly a journal I would call "esoteric". Since, as you stated, you didn't read the article, perhaps you didn't know who its publisher was.

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
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7 hours 5 min

I watch Lisa Caputo on her Long Island Medium show which is quite impressive. She gets hit after hit after hit after hit even with people "on the street." Lisa does this funny thing with her mouth when she is "feeling it" which is to say in her case when she senses the presence of departed relatives trying to impart some message to the still living. Her lips roll inward and she starts smacking them in concentration. It is a sort of tic that accompanies her immersion into the state of sensitivity. as soon as she starts doing that you know that fireworks will ensure shortly.

Webster's picture
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3 January 2014
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41 weeks 2 days

Please keep in mind that Long Island Medium is for entertainment purposes only!

Webster's picture
Member since:
3 January 2014
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41 weeks 2 days

The one part of lacking consideration is what the actual skill set of the Mediums are. Not all Mediums communicate with the Other Side in the same manner. Some may see things in their head, others may have more auditory phenomena and , like myself, there are us who are and hear them just as we see and hear folks from this realm.
I was asked years ago for my brain waves to be looked at as I was doing a communication session, the results were fascinating!
But I would think that this differentiation would play an important key to the results of this study. Honestly to say someone communicates with the deceased isn't enough!