Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center
Those of you interested in the relationship between ESP and the brain hemispheres will remember the experimental work of Richard Broughton and Michaeleen Maher, among others. The topic is being revisited in a review article in which experiments on the topic are commented:
Williams, B. J. (2012). Extrasensory Perception and the Brain Hemispheres: Where Does the Issue Stand Now? NeuroQuantology, 10, 350-373. http://www.neuroquantology.com/index.php/journal/article/view/600/523#.UXdb4-TD9fo
For over a century, evidence has been gathered to indicate that the two cerebral hemispheres of the human brain each tend to have their own behavioral specializations. An issue that has long been of interest to parapsychologists is whether the ostensibly anomalous behavioral phenomenon of “extrasensory perception” (ESP), in which a person seems to obtain veridical information about other people, objects, places, or events beyond the range of the body’s sensory-motor system, may be a specialized function of either of the brain hemispheres. To address this issue, a review of parapsychological experiments designed to explore the potential relevance of cerebral lateralization to ESP performance was initially conducted by Broughton in 1983. He generally concluded that, although there was some possible indication of a contribution to ESP by the right hemisphere, the results were mixed and possibly confounded by issues of interpretation. In a more concise review conducted in 2002, Alexander found that a limited number of experiments continued to indicate a right hemispheric tendency, although certain others separately indicated left hemispheric involvement. Thus, the issue is still clearly unresolved. This paper seeks to build upon these two previous reviews by providing an updated and broader review of the various findings obtained in the experiments that have been conducted up to the present time. Although several experiments continue to offer modest support for a right hemispheric contribution, general interpretation of the current database remains hindered by a wide degree of variability in experimental methods and outcomes, potentially confounding factors, and the scarcity of additional clarifying data. Thus, while the issue remains unresolved, there appear to be at least some potential avenues for progress in future experiments.
Bryan Williams is currently associated with the Psychical Research Foundation, a Texas-based non-profit organization devoted to research and education in parapsychology (http://www.psychicalresearchfoundation.com). From 2004 to 2011, he studied under the late Dr. William Roll of the University of West Georgia, and he was a co-recipient of the 2008 Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship Award offered by the Parapsychology Foundation in New York.