What Happens in a Medium’s Brain?

This past October, I watched the show “Long Island Medium,” on the TLC channel for the first time. It’s a show about a Long Island mother who is also a psychic medium—she claims she can talk to the dead. I had seen mediums in movies and on television before, so I assumed this one would start talking in odd voices as she became possessed by a spirit. Instead, she kept her regular voice while passing on messages from the deceased in a composed manner. She seemed very…normal.

An article published earlier this week on LiveScience is about a study that looks at the brain activity of a psychic medium in a trance. For the study, published earlier this month in PLoS ONE, 10 mediums were injected with radioactive tracers that tracked blood flow and allowed the researchers to monitor brain activity. The particular type of trance they were looking for is called psychography, when a medium is supposedly under control of a spirit and transcribes messages passed on by the deceased.

From the LiveScience article:

Experienced psychographers showed lower levels of activity in the brain’s frontal lobe regions of the left anterior cingulate and right precentral gyrus during psychography. These areas are linked with reasoning, planning, generating language, movement and problem solving, perhaps reflecting an absence of focus, self-awareness and consciousness during psychography. These psychographers also experienced less activity in the left hippocampus, which is linked with emotion, and the right superior temporal gyrus, which is linked with hearing.

For mediums in the study with less experience, the results were the opposite—they displayed more activity in those particular brain regions. This could explain why experienced mediums are able to take on spirits—their own brains don’t get in the way.

– Blayne Jeffries

One response

  1. The PLOS article doesn’t in any way conclude that the experienced mediums actually take on spirits. You should reconsider your last sentence.

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