Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A New Paper Suggests Scientists Have No Solid Theory of Neural Memory Storage

 For years scientists have been advancing the groundless theory that human memories are stored in synapses. Such scientists have ignored very strong reasons for concluding that this idea cannot possibly be correct. The first reason is the very short lifetimes of the proteins in synapses, which last only a thousandth of the longest length of time that humans can retain memories. Synapse proteins have an average lifetime of less than two weeks, but humans can reliably remember things for more than 50 years, a length of time more than 1000 times longer than two weeks.  I got a reminder of this yesterday, when I saw in print a reference to the 1970-1971 TV show "Nanny and the Professor," a show I haven't thought about (or heard mentioned or read about) in 50 years. I remembered correctly the name of the little-known female star of the show.  

If it were true that memories were stored by a strengthening of synapses, the formation of a memory would be a slow process. The only way in which a synapse can be strengthened is if proteins are added to it. We know that the synthesis of new proteins is a rather slow effect, requiring minutes of time. In addition, there would have to be some very complicated encoding going on if a memory was to be stored in synapses. The reality of newly-learned knowledge and new experience would somehow have to be encoded or translated into some brain state that would store this information. When we add up the time needed for this protein synthesis and the time needed for this encoding, we find that the theory of memory storage in brain synapses predicts that the acquisition of new memories should be a very slow affair. But it is a fact of human experience that humans can form long-term memories instantly.  You can often remember the plot of a movie months after seeing it only one time, and you can often remember months later experiences you had only one time, even if you never had any thought about the movie after seeing it, and never thought about the experience after having it.  Ask a man to tell the whole plot of a movie just after it ends, and he will be able to tell the whole story. He won't say that he doesn't remember the last few minutes of the movie, and ask you to wait for his memory formation to catch up.  And if you ask the man at the end of the movie to tell what happened at the end of the movie, he will have no trouble remembering, a few seconds after the movie's end.  

A new science paper gives us an indication that scientists have no solid theory of neural memory storage. The paper is entitled "What If Memory Information is Stored Inside the Neuron, Instead of in the Synapse?"  We read the following, which refers to a numbered list of papers given at the end of the paper:

"Conventional wisdom has it that memory information in the brain is stored in the synapse...In neuroscience literature, there is a growing number of findings against the synaptic hypothesis. For example: 'Long term memory storage and synaptic change can be dissociated' [13]; 'Increased synaptic strength that is the result of cellular consolidation is thus not a critical requisite for storing a memory' [14]; 'When enhanced synaptic strength between engram cells is abolished, the memory is not”'[15]; 'Memory does not reside in altered synaptic conductances.' [16]. As summarized succinctly in [17]: (we do not know) 'the physical medium in nervous tissue that is modified in order to preserve these empirical quantities for use in later computations.' "

This is quite a confession. A hypothesis of synaptic memory storage is still popular, despite the fact "there is a growing number of findings against the synaptic hypothesis."  This is what happens very frequently in scientific academia. Clinging to an achievement legend that is unfounded, scientists continue to believe they understand something they do not at all understand, as evidence continues to accumulate that their theory on the matter is wrong. This has been going on in one form or another through most of the history of scientific academia. Call it ideological inertia, which is the opposite of being able to quickly modify assumptions, what me may call hypothesis agility. 

The new paper refers us to a previous article in which a neuroscientist confesses his lack of understanding about a neural basis for memory and thought:

"We do not yet know how the brain implements the basic elements of computation (the basic operations of arithmetic and logic). We do not yet know the mind’s computational primitives. We do not yet know in what abstract form (e.g., analog or digital) the mind stores the basic numerical quantities that give substance to the foundational abstractions, the information acquired from experience that specifies learned distances, directions, circadian phases, durations, and probabilities. Much less do we know the physical medium in nervous tissue that is modified in order to preserve these empirical quantities for use in later computations. Already as an undergraduate, I wanted to know the physical basis of memory in the brain. I begin to think that we are not to know this in my lifetime, but science often progresses in sudden and unexpected spurts, so I still hope to know it."

This statement is a commendable confession, but it should have gone a little further. The scientist should have said "we do not know whether the brain implements any such thing as thought or computation," and "we do not know whether memories are stored through any such thing as a modification of nervous tissue." 

Having shaken our confidence in a synaptic theory of memory, the "What If Memory Information is Stored Inside the Neuron, Instead of in the Synapse?" paper proceeds to discuss a theory of memories stored in neurons. But the authors provide no evidence for such a theory, which would suffer from problems as great as the theory of a synaptic storage of memory. Nor do the authors even present any hypothetical description of how neurons could store information.  We are left with the impression that our scientists have no solid theory of how a brain could store memories. 


It is interesting that the paper authors feel compelled to spend a good part of their paper speculating on alternate ideas about the purpose of synapses.  Strange that even though we kept being told the far-fetched claim that our bodies merely reflect purposeless random mutations, our scientists so often tend to keep speaking as if everything in the body must have a purpose.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Fallacious Emptiness of a "Mind Is Like Wetness" Account

At the Aeon web site recently, we have a post by philosopher Massimo Pigliucci entitled "Consciousness Is Real." At some length Pigliucci makes a superfluous rebuttal of the boundlessly silly claim that consciousness is not real (a claim on the same credibility level as the claim that nothing exists).  Then Pigliucci offers his explanation for the mind, which is something very lame indeed: an analogy that the mind is like wetness.  I can see why Pigliucci has preceded this "mind is like wetness" account by attacking the mindless idea that consciousness does not exist.  It is so that some readers might think something like "the other idea was crazy, but this idea makes sense." But we should not think along such lines.  It is very silly to claim that consciousness does not exist, and it is also silly to try to explain the human mind by saying that it is rather like wetness. 

Pigliucci follows the typical strategy of reductionists offering goofy explanations for minds. The strategy is to use the word "consciousness" as much as possible to refer to human mentality. What's wrong with that is that consciousness is merely one aspect of human mentality. Human mentality consists of very many things, such as:

  • the ability to perceive the outside world;.
  • the ability to form memories;
  • the ability to recall memories of things learned or experienced decades or a half-century ago;
  • the ability to instantly retrieve facts when given some prompt such as a name, place or event;
  • the ability to understand complicated things;
  • the ability to form abstract ideas;
  • the ability to form beliefs and maintain beliefs;
  • the ability to feel certain emotions;
  • the ability to experience mental and physical pleasure and delight;
  • the ability to have paranormal experiences that are not neurally explicable.
aspects of human mentality

A person who talks about a "problem of conssciousness" rather than a "problem of human mentality" is like some person who describes baseball as "base-running" and who then tells us that gorillas can play baseball because gorillas can run between bases.  Such talk would be very fallacious, because baseball is a complex thing involving much more than just base-running: things like pitching, umpiring, hitting, fielding and score-keeping. Similarly, human mentality is a very complex thing involving a wide variety of different capabilities and aspects.  The instant we hear someone mainly using the word "consciousness" to refer to the human mind, we should suspect that we are once again being subjected to a ridiculous reductionism, in which a person is trying the old trick of trying to explain something by first describing it as a hundred times simpler than it is. 

Speaking often rather as if human mentality is mere consciousness, like someone speaking as if baseball is mere base-running, Pigliucci tries to explain the mind by suggesting that consciousness is an "emergent property" like wetness.  He states, "I think of consciousness as a weakly emergent phenomenon, not dissimilar from, say, the wetness of water (though a lot more complicated)."

In explaining the idea of emergence, an emergentist will typically give an example involving water. Water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, and neither has any such property as wetness. But when oxygen and hydrogen are combined to make water, then we have something with the property of wetness. It is claimed that such a property could never be predicted by just analyzing hydrogen or just analyzing oxygen.

According to the emergentist, this example shows that amazing new properties can arise when matter combines in different ways. The emergentist tells us that human consciousness is simply such a property, a property that just arises from certain complex combinations of matter.

But this reasoning is not sound. The human mind is not a property of the brain or a property of the body.

In general, a property is a simple intrinsic characteristic of something, which can be completely expressed by giving a single number. For example, the properties of a rock are hardness, weight, height, width, length, and depth. Each of these simple properties can be expressed by a single number. (You may not think hardness can be expressed by a number, but there is something called the Mohs scale used to numerically express the hardness of rocks.) We might also think of the color of the rock as being a property, although that requires a simplification (since the rock will actually be multiple colors). If one makes such a simplification, then that color can also be expressed as a single number, such as a number on a color scale. Even wetness can be expressed by a single number (we might, for example, create a wetness scale of 1 to 10, and reasonably assign liquid water a value of 10,  a thick soup a value of about 5, and arid dust with a value of 1 or 0).

But the human mind is not a simple characteristic that can be numerically expressed by a number. When we consider all of the facets of the human mind (memory, intelligence, personality, emotions, spirituality and many others), we certainly do not have anything like a simple characteristic that can be expressed by a number. The human mind is also something mental, something much different from a physical property such as width, weight, or wetness.

In light of such facts, the argument of the emergentist falls apart. To some it may sound persuasive to make this shallow, sketchy comparison:

"When we combine hydrogen and oxygen, we see the emergence of a new, unexpected property of wetness. This can help explain how our consciousness could suddenly arise from the combination of certain types of neurons."

But it does not at all sound convincing to make this deeper, more complete comparison.

"When we combine hydrogen and oxygen, we see the emergence of a new, unexpected property of wetness, which is a simple, physical property that can be expressed by a single number. This can help explain how certain combinations of physical neurons could produce human mentality that is not physical, mentality that is extremely complicated and multifaceted, and not capable of being expressed by a single number."

Obviously the latter argument does not work. Our minds are not at all a property. They are far too complicated, multifaceted, and functional to be a property, which is a simple physical thing, like a single facet of something.

An additional reason for rejecting "mind is a property" reasoning comes from near-death experiences. In these experiences a person will often report floating above his body, and looking down on it. A property is something that cannot be separated from the object with which it is associated. So it would be absolutely nonsensical to say something like, “The rock is on the left side of the room, but the length of the rock is on the right side of the room,” just as it would be nonsensical to say, “I have your bicycle in my garage, but I have the weight of your bicycle in my kitchen.” But judging from near-death experiences, it is possible for a human mind to be separated from the brain, at least briefly. Since properties can never be separated from their associated objects, such experiences supply an additional reason for thinking that the human mind cannot be considered a property of the brain.

Pigliucci states this: "It follows that an explanation of phenomenal consciousness will come (if it will come – there is no assurance that, just because we want to know something, we will eventually figure out a way of actually knowing it) from neuroscience and evolutionary biology, once our understanding of the human brain will be comparable with our understanding of the inner workings of our own computers."  This is actually an embarrassing confession, the confession that evolutionary biology and neuroscience currently have no explanation for the human mind.  Pigliucci  merely suggests that maybe some day they will, after we understand the details of the brain better.    Got it, professor -- you have no explanation for the human mind, but you are just keeping your fingers crossed that one day such an explanation will arise, from more activity in two areas that have failed thus far to produce such an explanation. Why would someone think that after 150 years of failing to produce an explanation for minds, that evolutionary biology and neuroscience would one day produce them?  That's kind of like saying, "I have failed to find my car keys after 100 days of looking inside my living room, but if I ever find them, I will find them by further looking in my living room."

We already understand the physical details of the brain very well indeed. We can examine it with incredible detail using technologies such as two-photon microscopy.  Billions have been poured into multi-year projects clarifying the brain's physical details. What we have learned are facts (discussed in great detail in the posts of this site) that contradict all claims that the brain is the source of our mentality. We know, for example, that no has found any sign of any stored information in brains other than the genetic information in every cell.  We know that the proteins in brains are so short-lived that they have average lifetimes of only two weeks or less --- 1000 times shorter than the longest length of time that humans can remember things. We know that because of factors such as cumulative synaptic delays and the relatively slow speed of dendrites, brain signals in the cortex only travel relatively slowly, way too slowly to explain instant human recall and the blazing calculation speed of math savants. We know that protein formation in brains takes minutes, too long to explain human memories that can form instantly. We know the brain has no sign of any indexing or position notation system that might explain instant memory recall.  We know that there is nothing in the brain like the read mechanism and write mechanism in computers. We have found no trace of any encoding system in the brain by which information learned in school or daily experience could be translated into permanent neural states or synapse states. In short, we have learned very much that discredits the idea that the brain is the source of our minds and the storage place of our memories.  There is no credible scenario under which additional neuroscience findings will give us a neural explanation for our minds.  

Pigliucci insinuates that some special arrangement of neurons in the brain produces mental phenomena, and says "it is not just how they are arranged in the brain that does the trick." When water is frozen, water molecules have a kind of ordered lattice arrangement; but pure ice isn't wet. When water is wet in a liquid state, water molecules are not arranged in any structure (in terms of structure, a barrel of water is like a barrel of sand).  The fact that you get wetness from molecules that have no arrangement does nothing whatsoever to suggest that mental phenomena would arise from some special arrangement of neurons.  

Speaking of wetness, if we think about water we might get some clue about a source of minds. Let's imagine some father and son in Kansas 3000 years ago speculating about the source of rainfall:

Son: Dad, where does rain come from?
Father: I don't know, but things come from similar things.  Branches come from trees, not rocks. So there's probably some big source of water, somewhere, and I bet the rain somehow comes from that. 

The father in this case would have been on the right track, because the water in clouds arises through evaporation from the water in the ocean. And the ocean is the "big source of water" that the father speculated about.  An intelligent speculation about a source of human minds would be that there is some great mind source or oceanic mind, and that mind comes from that source, directly or indirectly,  one type of thing arising from a similar type of thing.  That makes more sense than believing that mind arises from something totally unlike mind (matter).  If we suspect that a human mind comes from some source that is itself mental,  that is like suspecting that a branch came from a tree. If we believe that a human mind comes from a brain, that is like thinking that a branch came from a stone. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Prevailing Brain Dogmas Cannot Explain Hypnotic Phenomena

Most of the main normal mental phenomena of humans cannot be explained by prevailing dogmas that everything mental is caused by the brain. Humans can form new memories instantly. If suddenly someone sticks a gun in your mouth, you will instantly form a permanent new memory.  Neuroscientist attempts to explain memory formation (through vague crude ideas such as "synapse strengthening") fail miserably when we consider facts such as the short lifetimes of synapse proteins (only a few weeks), and the fact that such a synapse strengthening would take too long to explain the instant formation of new memories.  Neuroscientists cannot explain how you can instantly recall a memory when asked a question, or how learned knowledge could ever be translated into neural states or synapse states.  Neuroscientists also cannot explain how a brain could possibly cause a person to be conscious, or to have a unified self.  Our professors of neuroscience are also utterly unable to explain such basic human phenomena as imagination and the creation of new ideas.  No one can give a coherent explanation as to how a single neuron or a billions could ever come up with a novel idea. 

Besides failing to credibly explain normal human mental phenomena,  we cannot credibly explain a large variety of abnormal human mental phenomena through theories that our minds come from our brains. For example, materialists are unable to credibly explain phenomena such as apparition sightings and near-death experiences. 

The theory that your brain makes your mind also cannot explain a wide variety of baffling phenomena that occur under hypnosis. Such phenomena have been observed for more than two hundred years. What the average person knows about strange occurrences during hypnotic trances is only a fraction of the baffling anomalies that have been historically documented. 

Let us look at some of the strange phenomena that have been well-documented as occurring during hypnotic trances.

Phenomenon #1: a failure to remember what happened under hypnosis, except when returning to a hypnotic trance, or when executing a post-hypnotic suggestion.  

First, let us look at a well-known aspect of hypnosis that is inexplicable under prevailing dogmas about the brain and mind.  I refer to the fact that a hypnotized person will be able to hear speech and respond to questions. But when he is awoken from a hypnotized person, that same person will typically be unable to remember anything that went on during the hypnotic trance.  But if that person is then put under hypnosis again, he will be able to remember what previously occurred during his hypnotic trance. 

Such a tendency is mentioned in an 1851 book on hypnotism (when it was then commonly called animal magnetism). The book by William Gregory MD stated this (using the word "sleeper" for a hypnotized person, and "sleep" for a hypnotic trance):

"As a general rule, but not a rule without some exceptions, the sleeper does not remember, after waking, what he may have seen, felt, tasted, smelled, heard, spoken, or done, during his sleep ; but when next put to sleep, he recollects perfectly all that has occurred, not only in the last sleep, but in all former sleeps, and, as in the ordinary state, with greater or less accuracy, although usually very accurately indeed."

Such a failure to remember  what occurred in the hypnotic state is all the more baffling when we consider that a person may be hypnotized and told to perform some simple action after a certain interval, and then woke up from the hypnotic state. The person may then perform such a post-hypnotic suggestion after the interval passed.  So it is as if there is no memory of the post-hypnotic suggestion in conscious memory, but there is memory of the post-hypnotic suggestion in some subconscious memory, that then affects conscious actions after a certain interval passes. I will discusse below some specific examples of this. 
 
Phenomenon #2: an insensitivity to pain during a hypnotic trance. 

It was documented by many nineteenth century writers that under hypnosis a person could lose all sensitivity to pain. For example, in a 19th-century work, we read of a woman in 1829 who had her breast removed to treat cancer. The woman had no anaesthesia, but was merely hypnotized. The account says the woman "did not betray the least symptoms of pain...she talked tranquilly, during the whole time." Pages 65-67 of the same work describes another similar case of a younger hypnotized woman in 1854 who showed no signs of pain as her breast was surgically removed, as she smiled through the surgery. 

Using the word "somnambulists" to refer to those hypnotized, an 1831 report by a committee of French medical authorities, under the auspices of the Royal Academy of Medicine, stated the following:

"The greater number of the somnambulists whom we have seen, were completely insensible. We might tickle their feet, their nostrils, and the angle of the eyes, with a feather—we might pinch their skin, so as to leave a mark, prick them with pins under the nails, &c. without producing any pain, without even their perceiving it. Finally, we saw one who was insensible to one of the most painful operations in surgery, and who did not manifest the slightest emotion in her countenance, her pulse, or her respiration."

The author of one work tells us of his personal observations on this topic, using "mesmeric" to mean "hypnotic":

"In the first experiment I ever tried to assure myself of the reality of mesmeric anathsesia, a young woman was put to sleep and eight bad teeth were extracted from her ulcerated gums without her having any consciousness of it. But her inner consciousness being at the same time aroused, she was able to tell me the time by a clock in a house eight miles away, as I verified the next day by comparison with my watch."

The report above combines two inexplicable aspects of a hypnotic trance, an insensitivity to pain, and also clairvoyance during a hypnotized state, which is abundantly attested to in other reports discussed here and here and here

On pages 27-28 of a book by Dr. James Esdaile he lists a host of dramatic painless surgeries he performed without using anesthesia, but only hypnosis on patients. The list includes about 20 amputations, and 200 removals of scrotal tumors ranging from 10 pounds in weight to more than 100 pounds in weight. Another book on this topic by Esdaile can be read here

In the following quote from a nineteenth century work, we learn of a great irony: that physicians took up a chemical method of anesthesia, one which would often kill people, rather than using hypnotic methods of anesthesia that were proving very safe and effective:

"In Dr. Brown Sequard's lectures upon 'Nervous Force,' delivered in Boston in 1874, he speaks of this form of anaesthesia as follows : 

'As regards the power of producing anaesthesia, it seems to me unfortunate that the discovery of ether was made just when it was. It was, as you well know, in 1846 or 1847 that the use of ether as an anaesthetic was begun. It started from this city (Boston). At that time in England, Dr. Forbes was trying to show from facts observed in England, and especially in India, from the practice of Dr. Esdaile, that something which was called Mesmerism, but which, after all, was nothing but a peculiar state of somnambulism induced in patients, gave to them the idea that they were deprived of feeling ; so that they were in reality under the influence of their imagination, and operations were performed that were quite painless. I say that it was a pity that ether was introduced just then, as it prevented the progress of our knowledge as to this method of producing anaesthesia. My friend Dr. Broca took it up in 1857-8 and pushed it very far; and for a time it was the fashion in Paris to have amputations performed after having been anaesthetized by the influence of Braidism or Hypnotism. A great many operations were performed in that way that were quite painless. But it was a process that was long and tedious, and surgeons were in a hurry and gave it up. I regret it very much, as there has never been a case of death from that method of producing anesthesia, while you well know that a great many cases of death have been produced by other methods.' "

A modern paper reports a similar result: hypnosis producing dramatic reduction in headache pains. We read this:

"Symptoms of headache and vertigo were treated using direct hypnotic suggestions of symptom relief in 155 consecutive skull injured patients. Posttraumatic headache and vertigo were completely relieved after an average observation period of 1 year 10 months in 50% and 58% of the patients, and partially relieved in 20% and 16% respectively."

The difference here is that this pain reduction comes after the patient leaves the hypnotized state. 

Phenomenon #3: an insensitivity to sound during a hypnotic trance. 

It was documented by many nineteenth century writers that under hypnosis a person could lose all sensitivity to sound.  A nineteenth century work says this about hypnotized patients, using the word "magnetizer" for a hypnotist and "somnambule"  for the hypnotized person:

"Sensitiveness is entirely abolished. The patient hears only the voice of the magnetizer and that of the person whom the latter places en rapport with him. His deafness is absolute for all noises that occur, of whatsoever intensity. In an experiment made at Paris, a sceptic fired a pistol near the ear of a somnambule. The latter heard nothing. The insensibility is not less complete in other parts of the body. We may bury needles in the flesh without the patient feeling the least pain. He suffers only when he awakes. The most painful surgical operations have been performed on magnetized subjects, and they had only learned what had happened after they had come out of their sleep."

Phenomenon #4: clairvoyance and ESP during a hypnotic trance. 

It was documented by many nineteenth century writers and authorities that under hypnosis a person could show paranormal powers of clairvoyance or telepathy.  In the long posts here and here and here  and here I discuss some of the abundant observational evidence for such a thing.  I may note that the reality of clairvoyance under hypnosis was firmly declared by a high-prestige French academic committee, a six-year investigation of the Royal Academy of Medicine that issued its report in 1831. 

During the nineteenth century hynotized people were often asked to engage in a kind of thought sharing or "mind meld" with another person, a state that was called being en rapport with that person. A nineteenth century work on hypnotism gives this summary, using the word "sleeper" for a hypnotized person: 

"Thought reading presents itself in every possible variety of form. The sleeper, being placed en rapport with any person, can often describe, with the greatest accuracy, the subject that occupies the thoughts of that person. It may be an absent friend, or his own house, or that of another, or his drawing-room, bed-room, study, &c. &c. All these things the sleeper perceives, as they pass through the mind of the experimenter, and describes with great minuteness and accuracy, so as to excite our astonishment. Or he goes further ; he not only perceives the present, but the past thoughts of the person en rapport with him ; he shares his memory. Thus he will mention facts, no longer so existing, but remembered by the experimenter. Nay, he goes still further even than this ; for he perceives things once known to, and now forgotten by, the experimenter, who very often contradicts the sleeper, and persists in maintaining his own opinion, until, on further enquiry, he not only finds him to be right, but himself is enabled to recal the fact, which had, as we say, escaped his memory."

Many specific case examples of such a thing can be found in the three posts mentioned above (the posts here and here  and here).  A nineteenth century work Letters to a Candid Inquirer, on Animal Magnetism by William Gregory gives some very specific numerical details relating to clairvoyance in hypnotic trances (referred to below as "mesmeric sleep"):

"Major Buckley has thus produced conscious clairvoyance in 89 persons, of whom 44 have been able to read mottoes contained in nut-shells, purchased by other parties for the experiment. The longest motto thus read, contained 98 words. Many subjects will read motto after motto without one mistake. In this way, the mottoes contained in 4860 nut-shells have been read, some of them, indeed, by persons in the mesmeric sleep, but most of them by persons in the conscious state, many of whom have never been put to sleep. In boxes, upwards of 86,000 words have been read; 'in one paper, 371 words. Including those who have read words contained in boxes when in the sleep, 148 persons have thus read. It is to be observed that, in a few cases, the words may have been read by thought-reading, as the persons who put them in the boxes were present; but in most cases, no one who knew the words has been present, and they must therefore have been read by direct clairvoyance. Every j)recaution has been taken. The nuts, inclosing mottoes, for example, have been purchased of 40 different confectioners, and have been sealed up until read. It may be added, that of the 44 persons who have read mottoes in nuts by waking or conscious clairvoyance, 42 belong to the higher class of society; and the experiments have been 
made in the presence of many other persons. These experiments appear to me admirably contrived, and I can per- ceive no reason whatever to doubt the entire accuracy of the facts."

Later in the same work we read many detailed descriptions of clairvoyance under hypnosis, one of which is the account below (which uses the "magnetic sleep" to refer to a hypnotic trance):

 "E., in the magnetic sleep, as I saw more than once, could see perfectly what passed behind her, 
her eyes being closed ; or any thing placed in such a position, that, had her eyes been open, she could not have seen it ; she could also see very often all that passed outside of the door, and when I was there, told us how many of the servants of the hotel were listening at the door, in hopes of 
hearing wonders ; she would also often tell what was doing in the room above or below her. In short, she frequently exhibited direct clairvoyance in every form, not only in those just mentioned, but also in that of seeing prints or pictures shut up in boxes. Besides seeing various instances 
of direct clairvoyance, I was able to satisfy myself that Dr. Haddock's experiments were made with the greatest care and judgment ; that he was particularly well acquainted with the various causes of error and confusion, very careful to avoid these, and that in short his accounts of such experiments as I had not seen were entirely trustworthy."

On page 334 in the same work, we read this account of clairvoyance under hypnotism:

"We requested her to visit the house of Mrs. P., one of the ladies present. This house was in 
Greenock, distant from my cottage about a mile and a quarter. She saw her servant in the kitchen, but said that another woman was with her. On being pressed to look earnestly at the woman, she said it was C_____ M______. This, Mrs. P. declared to be true. We then asked her to see if any person was in Mrs. P.'s parlor, when she said that Miss Laing was there, a young lady from Edinburgh, who 
was boarding with Mrs. P. at the time ; that she was sitting on the sofa ; that she was crying, and that a letter was in her hand. On the party breaking up, I walked into Greenock with the ladies and gentlemen, in order to see if she was right about Miss L. It was true. Miss L. had received a letter by that evening's post from her father in Edinburgh, stating that her mother was not expected to live, and requesting her to come home by the first train in the morning." 

Although living mind researchers have usually displayed an appalling failure to research the topic of clairvoyance under hypnosis that was so well-documented in the nineteenth century, we occasionally get evidence of it even in recent years. A 2020 paper found that hypnosis increased success in remote viewing efforts, remote viewing being essentially a synonym for clairvoyance. Using RV for a non-hypotic "remote viewing" attempts, and OB-RV for a hypnotically aided "remote viewing" attempts, in which subjects were encouraged to mentally travel out of their bodies,  the paper states the following:

"The purpose of this study was to compare the ability to identify and describe physical targets, from a distance, in the RV and OB-RV states of consciousness.The results clearly demonstrate that in both conditions, the amount of correct information is clearly greater than wrong information, with a difference of around 20%. The only difference in performance between the two is in the number of correct information, which is slightly greater in the OB-RV condition."

The author Joseph Haddock reported that after hypnotizing a subject, the subject would respond to any pain inflicted on Joseph, just as if the hypnotized person had felt the pain: "I have got individuals to tread on my toes, pull my hair, or pinch different parts of the body ; and I invariably found that, with this subject, not many seconds would elapse before she would complain of exactly similar treatment, and refer the pain to the exact corresponding part; and sometimes I have experienced considerable difficulty in dispelling the illusion." 

An effect totally inexplicable under materialist assumptions is what is called "community of sensations" under hypnosis. It has been very frequently reported that a hypnotized person may instantly feel sensations felt by the person who hypnotized him. A set of experiments on this effect is reported in the "First Report of the Committee on Mesmerism" pages 225-229 of Volume 1 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (April, 1883), a committee including the illustrious names of Frederic Myers,  Edmund Gurney, Frank Podmore, George Wyld M.D. and the eventually knighted physicist W.F. Barrett.  We read this on page 226: "Thus out of a total of 24 experiments in transference of pains, the exact spot.was correctly indicated by the subject no less than 20 times."  These were experiments in which the hypnotized subject was asked whether he felt anything, after the hypnotizer had been given some type of pain or sensation while in another room where the hypnotized person could not see him.  Similar results were obtained by Dr. Edmund Gurney and reported in his paper "An Account of Some Experiments in Mesmerism," published on page 201 of Volume II of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research ( June 1884). As reported on page 205, a hypnotized subject identified with high accuracy many tactile and taste sensations occurring in a hypnotizer sitting behind him. 

Phenomenon #5: extreme suggestibility.

An astonishing aspect of hypnotism is that hypnotized people will seem to act or believe in various ridiculous ways, if the person hypnotizing them has suggested the action or belief. A nineteenth century work describes this aspect of hypnotism, describing some hypnotized subjects:

"When they drank water, and were told that it was milk, coffee, rum, whisky, or wormwood, they tasted it as such. Nay, after drinking it as whisky, they were told that they were drunk, and in a minute or two became, in every particular, very drunk indeed. The expression of the face was perfectly that of intoxication, and they could not walk a step without staggering or falling. They were easily made, by suggestion, to fancy themselves any other persons, and acted in character. They shot, fished, swam, lectured, and exhibited every feeling suggested to them. They were as easily made to suppose a stick to be a gun, a rod, a sword, nay, a serpent ; or a chair to be a tiger or a bear. From these animals they fled with extreme terror. They were made to see, hear, and feel a dreadful storm, and to creep for shelter under a table or a chair, supposed by them to be a house. From this, they were soon expelled 
by the serpent, or by the flood rising, when they swam lustily for their lives. This was the first time that either of them had been tried ; and the control exercised by Mr. Lewis over their sensations, erceptions, and emotions was perfect, although their consciousness was entire. They knew the suggested impressions to be false, but could not resist them. It was most interesting to watch closely their countenances, when an object, for example, a handkerchief, was placed in the hand, and, after they felt quite sure of what it was, they were told it was a rat, &c. The gradual change to doubt, from doubt to certainty, and from that to disgust or anger, was inimitable, and conveyed at once, to those near enough to see it, complete conviction of their sincerity."

Later in the same book we have an account of a person becoming extremely suggestible under hypnosis:

"His muscular motions were controlled in every possible way. He was rendered unable to raise his hands, or to let them fall ; he was made unable to move one, while he could move the other ; unable to sit down or to rise up ; or to take hold of, or let go an object. One arm was deprived of sensation, or both arms, or the whole frame. He was made to feel a knife burning hot, and the chair on which 
he sat equally so. When he started up, he was made to feel the floor so hot that he was compelled to hop about, and wished to pull off his boots, which burnt him. He was made to feel the room intolerably warm, and actually perspired with the heat ; after which he was made to feel it so cold, that in a minute or two he buttoned his coat, and walked about rubbing his hands. In about five minutes his hand was really chilled, as I found, like that of a person exposed to frost. He was made to forget his own name, as well as that of Col. Gore Browne, who was present, and to imagine Col. B. a total stranger. He was compelled, for a time, to give a false answer to every question asked ; and then was forced to give true answers to every question, in spite of any effort he might make to do otherwise. He was told he was on duty, at drill ; and began to give the word of command, as if in the barrack-yard. He was compelled to sing and whistle, in spite of himself; to laugh immoderately, and then to feel sad, and even to weep, all in spite of his own will. He was told that a stick was a gun, and with it, he shot and bagged a grouse, which he was made to see before him. He was told the piano-forte was a horse, and after feeling and closely examining it, he specified its points and defects, and appraised its value. He tasted water precisely as was suggested to him, as lemonade, tea, or wormwood. He was told that Dr. D.'s hand was a mirror, and in it he saw himself with a black face, as Dr. D. told him to do. He was made to look at his watch, and then convinced that it pointed to a different hour from the true one. He was then made to believe the watch to be a daguerreotype of Col. Browne, and again of a lady. Dr. D.'s empty hand became a snuff-box, from which he took a pinch, which made him sneeze violently, and this passed into a most severe cough, as if he had inhaled snuff, which sensation was not removed for 
about half-an-hour. He was made to go to sleep in one minute, and in his sleep to be deaf to the loudest sounds."

There follows in the book a description of quite a few cases of similar levels of suggestibility under hypnosis. 

Phenomenon #6: post-hypnotic suggestions. 

An astonishing aspect of hypnotism is that people in a hypnotic trance who have promised to do something or been instructed to do something will often do just such a thing, even if they have no memory of promising such a thing or being told to do such a thing when they were hypnotized.  A nineteenth century work describes this tendency, using the word "sleeper" for a hypnotized person:

"This leads me to another very curious phenomenon, namely, that the sleeper, if commanded, in the sleep, to do a certain thing, after waking, and at a certain hour, will do so, and however absurd or ridiculous the act, he cannot, in many cases, refrain from doing it, if he has promised it in 
the sleep."

Phenomenon #7: transposition of senses.

Another astonishing aspect of hypnotism is that people in a hypnotic trance sometimes reportedly have a kind of displacement of one or more of the senses.  For example, they may be able to see only things presented to some part of their body other than their eyes. A nineteenth century work describes this on page 148:

"I have not hitherto noticed, save in passing, a phenomenon which occasionally presents itself, but which is not by any means uniformly present in a marked form; I mean, transference of the senses to some special part of the body.... But it sometimes happens, that the power of seeing, not 
the ordinary sense of sight, but the clairvoyant power, is located in some special part. It has been observed to be located in the pit of the stomach, in the tips of the fingers, in the occiput as well as in the forehead, or on te top of the head, and in one case which I heard of from a scientific gentleman who tested it, in the soles of the feet. The books and journals which treat of Animal Magnetism teem with similar facts; and the head, hand, and epigastrium, seem to be the usually selected parts, probably from the proximity to the brain in the first, the great development of the nerves of touch in the second, and the presence of the great sympathetic plexus of nerves in the third. The fact itself is beyond all doubt, and it is quite unnecessary to accumulate cases. In one form or other, the power of dispensing with the eyes, and yet perceiving color, &c. quite plainly, is found in every good subject. The same thing frequently happens with hearing. Thus E.  when on her travelling state or stage, is utterly deaf to 
all sounds, save those which are addressed to her by speaking with the mouth in contact with the tips of her fingers. This fact I have myself verified. I believe she would not hear a pistol fired at her ear, in that state."

Phenomenon #8: astonishing time-keeping or time calculation abilities.

In the long Chapter 1 of  the 1922 book "Medical Psychology and Psychical Research" by T. W. Mitchell there is a long discussion of astonishing time-keeping abilities of hypnotized subjects. Mitchell performed many experiments in which a subject under hypnosis was told to perform a simple task (to draw a cross on a piece of paper) after a particular interval of time expired.  The subject would be brought out of the hypnotic state long before the interval expired.  

On page 12 Mitchell mentions an example of time-keeping seeming to occur with such post-hypnotic suggestions, starting with a January 3 post-hypnotic suggestion:

"On January 3rd, 1907, I made a similar suggestion to be fulfilled on 'the I45th day from this.'  On January 16th I asked her in hypnosis if she remembered what I told her on January 3rd. She said she did. ' How many days are gone ?'  '13.' ' How many to come ?'  ' 132.'  ' When does it fall due ?' 'May 28th.' All the answers are correct, and were given without any hesitation. On being asked the same questions on January 29th, she said that 26 days had passed, and 119 still to come (right)."

On page 18 we read this:

"Here is an example of Delboeuf's experiments. At 6.55 a.m. he suggested to his subject M. that at the 
expiration of 1,500 minutes she was to ask Madame Delboeuf if she required anything. This suggestion was carried out with absolute accuracy. Delboeuf made twelve experiments of this kind, the time-intervals suggested varying from 350 to 3,300 minutes. Two of these were fulfilled at the moment they fell due. In three the impulse to fulfil the suggested act arose at the right time."

What we see here is a time-tracking ability (in post-hypnotic suggestions) greater than any ability humans in normal consciousness. If you asked a person in normal consciousness to do something (such as jumping in the air) after the expiration of 1500 minutes, he would be most unlikely to do the requested thing at the exact time (without the use of something like an alarm clock). 

On page 15 we have this example obtained by a Dr. Bramwell (whose book on the topic you can read here):

"On Tuesday, December 24th, 1895, at 3.10 p.m., Miss D. was told, during hypnosis, that she was to make a cross on a piece of paper in 7,200 minutes (Exp. No. 7).  This fell due to be fulfilled on Sunday, December 29th.  When it was fulfilled Miss D. was teaching a Sunday School class, when she suddenly felt an impulse to make a cross and mark the time. It was only after doing so that she looked at the clock, which was behind her. Her estimation of the time was correct."

The next page tells us that 45 similar experiments with Miss D. produced similar results: "Forty-five were completely successful, i.e. not only did Miss D. write down the correct terminal time, but this was done, also, at the moment the experiment fell due." On the same page Mitchell tell us, "I have made a series of observations which corroborate in many ways the results obtained by Dr. Bramwell."

On page 19 Mitchell gives us exact results from experiments in post-hypnotic suggestion he did with a subject F.D. The astonishingly accurate results are shown below. For example, in the first experiment, the subject F. D. was told under hypnosis to do some specific thing (such as draw a cross) 700 minutes into the future, and the subject did that exactly that thing 700 minutes later. 

post-hypnotic suggestions

Phenomenon #9: mysterious cures

During the nineteenth century there were very many reports of people being mysteriously cured by hypnotic treatment. To find such reports, you can go to www.archive.org and search for "Mesmerism" and "animal magnetism" (the terms used for hypnosis treatments before the word "hypnosis" overtook them).  Many examples can be found in the book Vital magnetism: its power over disease by Frederick T. Parson.   

A modern scientific paper ("Improving working memory performance in brain-injured patients using hypnotic suggestion") states the following:

"Working memory impairment is prevalent in brain injured patients across lesion aetiologies and severities. Unfortunately, rehabilitation efforts for this impairment have hitherto yielded small or no effects. Here we show in a randomized actively controlled trial that working memory performance can be effectively restored by suggesting to hypnotized patients that they have regained their pre-injury level of working memory functioning." 

The paper testing 49 brain-damaged subjects reports a dramatic improvement in working memory for the subjects.  Group 1 with 27 subjects improved from an average score of 81.74 (well below average) to an average score of 107.44 (well above average).  Group 2 with 22 subjects improved from an average score of 80.36 (well below average) to an average score of 103.95 (substantially above average). 

A psychology paper reports that after a brain-damaged woman was hypnotized and told that she could fix her cognitive problems, she "had major improvements in the cognitive tests," and "her Working Memory Index improved from the 0.17 % percentile to the 10% percentile." 

See here for a wide variety of medical improvements produced by hypnosis.

Phenomenon #10: exaltation of thinking and speaking abilities

It has often been reported that in a hypnotic trance someone might be able to think and speak much better than he could in his normal consciousness. An example of such a thing is given in the book The Mechanism of Man: An Answer to the Question, what Am I? by Edward William Cox. On page 301 we read this:

"But the Trance patient does what the Somnambule does not....He maintains a conversation, answer- ing questions with astonishing ability and in language such as he cannot command in his waking state. Often he will argue with scholastic skill, treating with ease and accuracy subjects of profound thought, far beyond the range of his waking iutelligence. I have heard an uneducated barman, when in a state of Trance, maintain a dialogue with a party of philosophers on 'reason and foreknowledge. Will and fate,'  and hold his own against them. I have put to him the most difficult questions in Psychology and received answers, always thoughtful, often full of wisdom, and invariably conveyed in choice and eloquent language. Nevertheless, in a quarter of an hour afterwards, when wakened from the Trance, he was unable to answer the simplest query on a philosophical subject and was not merely inapt at the language of science he had been lately using so glibly, but at a loss for sufficient language in which to express a common- place idea."

The lack of any workable neuroscience theory to explain hypnotic phenemena

It is impossible to explain the more anomalous aspects of hypnotism under the prevailing dogmas that the brain is the cause of human mental phenomena and the storage place of memories.  When neuroscientists attempt to offer an explain for hypnotism, they usually use the trick of mentioning only a small subset of the phenomena that have been observed in hypnotic trances.  

Near the end of his book Hypnotism and Treatment by Suggestion, Bramwell commented on the lack of any good theory to explain what occurs under hypnotic trances.  He stated this:

"So far, no reasonable answer has been given to the question, 'What is the connection between hypnotic methods and the production of so-called hypnotic phenomena ?' Personally, I see no logical connection between the acts of fixed gazing, concentration of attention, suggested ideas of drowsy states, and the varied manifestations of so-called hypnosis."

After disputing some theories trying to explain hypnotism, the author states, "While I have raised objections to all the theories referred to — theories which are discussed much more fully in my larger work -- I have unfortunately, no theory of my own to bring forward in substitution for them."  Bramwell had no theory because he was man of a materialist bent. 

Once we discard materialist ideas about the brain, we may start to put forth some ideas that can begin to explain some of the mysteries of hypnotism.  One idea is that the brain is not the cause of our minds, but mainly a kind of valve that limits our minds. If so, then something fairly simple such as hypnotism might reduce that valve effect.  The result might be an abundance of mental phenomena inexplicable through any neural cause, not phenomena that are produced by the brain, but powers and aspects of a human soul that a normal brain blocked us from previously seeing, through a valve effect rather like how a valve prevents water from flowing. 


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