Doubt Cast on Theory that Magnetic Fields Spark Religious Feelings: Studies showing that magnetic stimulation of the brain induces spiritual experiences are being questioned by researchers who cannot reproduce key results. We have reported in the past that in a study by Michael Persinger 80% of participants who wore helmets that targeted their temporal lobes with weak magnetic fields, of roughly the same strength as those generated by a computer monitor, felt an unexplained presence in the room. Persinger suggested that magnetism causes bursts of electrical activity in the temporal lobes of the brain, and he linked this to the spiritual experiences.
Now a group of Swedish researchers have repeated his work, with one crucial difference. They ensured that neither the participants nor the experimenters interacting with them had any idea who was being exposed to the magnetic fields, a “double-blind” protocol. In contrast to the results from Persinger and others, the team found that the magnetism had no discernable effects.