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I’ve never been to Hawaii, but since my days of watching Magnum P.I. on TV, I always thought of it as a true paradise –especially if you had a red Ferrari and an epic ‘stache like Tom Selleck.

But even these tropical islands would seem like Hell on Earth, if you thought you were kidnapped by strange non-human creatures, subjecting you to all sorts of horrendous experiments.

This is exactly what Neurologist Dr. Michael B. Russo was hearing from his patients, who were been referred to him by their primary physicians after complaining about migraines or other problems, once they felt comfortable enough to share their terrible secret. Following the logical guidelines of his career, and armed with a powerful dense-array electroencephalography (DEEG) machine –the only one of its kind in Hawaii– Dr. Russo scanned the heads of his patients, and instead of metallic implants left by their alien tormentors, what he found was certain consistent abnormalities in their parietal lobes, which is the area of the brain in charge of processing visual and auditory stimuli, and integrating them into higher thinking.

“The parietal areas process visual and auditory data, but they can intrinsically create it themselves and then send it to the prefrontal region, where you become aware of it. … Our thinking is that there’s something in the parietal areas that’s generating (the feeling that transmissions from aliens are being sent to the brain).”

The electrical brain wave activity of the alien abductee patients looks similar to that of patients who have experienced traumatic brain injury, he said.

Ahá! We finally found a purely biological explanation for abductions. Mystery solved.

Well, not so fast: Even Dr. Russo himself does not seem willing to dismiss the stories of their patients as pure fantasy-induced hallucinations:

“All I’m saying is that these areas of the brain are similar between patients. … Patients would not come to me if I did not take them seriously and their problems seriously. I don’t discount what they’ve said. I try to make the pain or discomfort or anxieties diminish.”

His patients are also responding well to both his diagnosis and treatment. After all, he’s helping them cope with the pain.

This is not the first time researchers have tried to propose a biological mechanism behind the alien abduction experience. Before Russo’s parietal abnormalities, there was the ‘temporal lobe epilepsy’ disorder which Dr. Michael Persinger thinks is responsible for a broad spectrum of ‘mystical experiences.’ He followed his research by producing what he nicknamed the ‘God helmet’ –which only caused a ‘slight headache’ in Richard Dawkins when he tried it on…

There’s also the ‘sleep paralysis’ syndrome, a favorite among skeptics, because it seems to fit so nicely with the traditional stereotype of your typical abduction: Happening at night, when people are in their beds, coming right out of deep sleep. Never mind that MANY people have reported abductions on different circumstances, like driving on their cars or standing on their kitchen fully awake…

My own personal opinion is that I see no problem in trying to find out more about the possible biological components behind these experiences. After all, even the researchers who advocate for a non-conventional explanation –i.e. hybridization experiments performed by extraterrestrial geneticists– also look into certain ‘biological markers’ or commonalities between people who claim to have been taken by alien beings: Rh-negative blood type, Celtic or Native American ancestry, etc. They are using different ‘narratives’ to substantiate their ideas, true, but they are still looking into the particulars of the abductees’ physicality.

The fault I see in BOTH approaches is in stopping there, and not going further enough. A chemist will know the precise molecular composition of DMT; a botanist will know the exact taxonomical nature of the plants containing a high concentration of it in their tissue, and an anthropologist will record the particulars of an Ayahuasca ceremony performed by an Amazonian shaman.

But that will still NOT explain the nature, origin and potency of the rich imagery and sensory data ‘downloaded’ into the consciousness of the person who drinks the Ayahuasca brew. Likewise, we still don’t know why a parietal abnormality found in different auto-proclaimed abductees, would end up rendering ‘hallucinations’ with such a persistent narrative.

Some people get banged on the head and become mathematical savants. Others, like the famous John Nash —who recently lost his life in a tragic car accident— believed they were in contact with alien beings, just when they are at their peak of mathematical thinking. And others, like Chris Bledsoe, claimed to have had a close encounter experience, only to suddenly find their creativity has received a mysterious ‘boost’.

Which example is more ‘paranormal’ than the other? And does the ‘origin story’ demerit the value of these people’s achievements?

Let us look for commonalities, but do not let them diminish our sense of awe, nor should we confuse them for the REAL mystery.



Thanks to Mike Clelland and Stephen Miles Lewis.