Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

A review of mediumship research has been published in a Brazilian psychiatry journal. Here is the reference and the abstract:

Marco Aurélio Vinhosa Bastos Jr, Paulo Roberto Haidamus de Oliveira Bastos, Lídia Maria Gonçalves, Igraíne Helena Scholz Osório, Giancarlo Lucchetti: “Mediumship: Review of Quantitatives Studies Published in the 21st Century. Archives of Clinical Psychiatry, 2015, 42, 129-138.

Abstract

Background: Mediumship can be defined as the alleged ability to communicate with deceased persons. The last decade has been particularly productive for this field of research and the study of mediumship can help the understanding of the human mind-brain relationship and provide objective data to the scientific community and to the general population. Objective: The aim of this review is to summarize and discuss the results found on recent studies investigating mediumship. Furthermore, we aim to discuss the psychophysiology underlying mediumship and future perspectives for this study topic. Methods: A literature search for articles in English, Portuguese and Spanish published from January 2000 up to June 2015 was conducted using three electronic databases (PubMed, Lilacs and Web of Science). Review articles, qualitative studies and studies investigating altered states of consciousness caused by psychoactive substances were excluded. The original search returned 150 articles, but the application of exclusion criteria resulted in the inclusion of 19 articles for final analysis. Results: The general findings were: (1) an association of mediumship with good mental health, predominantly in experienced mediums, (2) heterogeneous findings regarding the ability of mediums to provide accurate information what may be due to different study methodologies and (3) incipient studies assessing physiological correlations during mediumistic communications (i.e. hypoactivation of brain regions responsible for cognitive processing and writing planning during psychography compared to a control task; electroencephalographic (EEG) changes and a slight predominance of the sympathetic nervous system). Discussion: There is a paucity of empirical data available in this controversial research field. New studies employing rigorous design (e.g. triple-blind protocols to test accuracy of mediumistic communications), and sensitive methods are required.”

The authors write in a final section about future perspectives that researchers should not pathologize mediumship without proper evidence and that in fact, mediumship is associated with positive indices of mental health.

They also state: “Concerning studies on the accuracy of information provided by mediums, their design must reach a balance between control against information leakage and the provision of a research environment that optimizes the phenomenon for both the medium and for the alleged communicating deceased person.”

Several other comments are presented, some about psychological studies, and the use of neuroimaging techniques. Regarding the latter it is stated: “Concerning the possibility of studying mediumship through functional neuroimaging technique, one important aspect is the selection of the control task. Usually the participant acts as his/her own control, being asked to perform two similar tasks, one with and another without spiritual (mediumistic in this case) connotation. This allows the control task to be comparable to mediumistic practice with respect to a range of elements (open or closed eyes, talking or not talking, listening or not listening) and potentially optimizes the identification of characteristic neurophysiological correlates of the mediumistic experience . . . The decision of which specific method to use depends on availability and financial possibilities . . . but SPECT (Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) techniques are usually preferred because images can be captured after the completion of the event under investigation (not simultaneously as it is necessary for functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging [MRI]). In addition, the noise during MRI may disturb mediums, interfering with the phenomenon . . .”