Blog powered by Typepad

« When bad things happen to good universes | Main | »


I guess these hydros should donate their bodies to science so autopsies can be performed and we can learn if there's anything to the compressed material theory of Neuroskeptic or what, if anything else, is going on from a physical standpoint.

Very interesting though.

Dear Michael, fascinating post. I have long been interested in this topic and like you find it extraordinary that it gets ignored by those interested in the brain and theories about consciousness. The Lorber cases were written about in "Science" magazine in December, 1980 (35 years ago!) by journalist Roger Levin (worth a read, although from memory it too is behind a paywall). A British documentary was also made about Lorber's patients called "Is your Brain Really Necessary?"

I think the study of savants also gets the same treatment as your brain topic. Savants too challenge "the normal". I guess they just don't fit neatly into the current dominant zeitgeist. Disappointing really. I thought science was supposed to follow the evidence.

As an aside,I have recently published a novel on the above brain/consciousness themes - "Memories of a Brainless Girl".


Michael said:

"Perhaps even more astonishing, there seems to be very little interest in explaining them. They are unwanted, inconvenient scraps of data, duly reported and quickly filed away."

Nice. :)

Michael, you might be interested to know that at 00:23 in this video, Donald Trump flatly denies what you're suggesting here.

Do you still stand by it?

"Do you still stand by it?"

I'm waiting for a statement from his hairpiece.

I have found this blog that might interest you:

In this blog also is the idea that the reality is basically information.

Nice post!

I'm with Bruce in applauding your comment about noting and filing away inconvenient data.

I think NDEs are treated the same way. Even if we grant materialism to be true, NDEs have to be considered a goldmine of evidence about how consciousness works. But those operating in the current paradigm are content to say, "Just some hallucinations, move along now."

It is almost as if, by dint of a perverse psychological mechanism, the substantial presence of those proposing a theory that violates the materialist paradigm (that NDEs indicate life after death) allows those representing the status quo simply to push back against their opponents with a pat answer (hallucination!) while simultaneously freeing themselves from the burden of having to explain on a deep level what actually is happening.

IOW: "Oh, so you say there's life after death? We know that's impossible, so it must be just a hallucination, and that's that, and I'm sure not going to take anything about this phenomenon seriously, since that would be taking you seriously."

A bit of a tangent, but I think there is related psychology at work.

I'd heard of the absent brain cases before but the concept of memory being stored elsewhere is very interesting to me as I've come to the very same conclusion for different reasons.

The one "paranormal" phenomenon which has, for me, gone beyond belief or speculation into the realm of personally irrefutable reality is that of precognitive dreams. I've recorded and studied the contents of my dreams many before me have know to my own absolute satisfaction that future events get thrown into hte plots at least as much as past events.

The closer I studied it the more apparent it became to me that these glimpses of the future are in fact memories, no more, no less. If I encounter something before sleep which reminds me by association with a near future event, my mind is likely to wander onto the latter and it gets incorporated into the dream. This isn't a special power, I believe its being experienced by everybody every night.

But how can one remember the future unless its already happened, or things are pre-destined and we have no free will? I got past this particular conundrum very quickly by theorising that these memories are stored externally, in a kind of cloud "up there" so to speak, in some timeless realm of consciousness. So that I remain completely free to make decisions and my future remains unwritten,but whatever I do experience in the future will get stored in that external memory bank where time has no relevance, and which can be accessed in certain mental states from any part of my time line. Ie from the present.

I hope that makes sense!

"I'm waiting for a statement from his hairpiece."

That cracked me up. But you have to remember, hairpieces definitely need brains -- to sit on.

I think this phenomena is not unknown in medical circles. Children under 6 years ( that is the cutoff apparently ) have in some cases been shown to have extensive brain damage and lost a lot of brain material, yet gone on to develop normally. The theory being, as the brain was still developing, other neurones compensated.

Perhaps these people out of the many others whose hydrocephaly occurred from birth, have managed to have a better outcome.
Or the neurones may have simply been displaced by pressure as was suggested. Lyn x.

In cases of hydrocephalus the main thing that has changed about the brain is that the spaces (ventricles) within the brain have enlarged due to their functional inability to drain spinal fluid out of the spaces. The brain per se is still there. As the spaces enlarge the brain tissue is compressed up against the skull. Apparently if the compression is not too severe the brain tissue is still functional. I agree with Neuroskeptic here. - AOD

I find this astonishing, never heard of these cases. That one fellow seemed to dismiss it, claiming that, as long as the outer shell of the brain was intact, that's all that was needed. Huh? Everything I've ever read or seen doesn't indicate that. For instance, I've seen what a brain aneurysm does - among other things, it seriously affects your balance. And these folks not only don't have the gray matter, they're not just normal, but appear to be very intelligent.

Thanks for posting, I find this strong evidence of the brain-as-filter hypothesis.

Lawrence said:

"If I encounter something before sleep which reminds me by association with a near future event, my mind is likely to wander onto the latter and it gets incorporated into the dream."

Great comments on precognition, Lawrence, several of which align perfectly with my own understanding. But this quote baffles me.

Could you clarify what you're trying to say here? Are you saying that precognitive dreams in some way depend on what happens *before* we go to sleep?

If that's your meaning, it runs counter to my own experience.

AOD, I don't know. The brain in the middle doesn't look any different from the brain on the right. Compression is just a theory. It sounds reasonable on one hand and doesn't pass the sniff test on the other. Autopsy is necessary.

I agree that there needs to be more research on cases like that! I wonder why only *some* hydrocephalus patients function normally in everyday-life while *most* are severely disabled. Why should some be able to access information that is stored in some personal information field effortlessly with a defective receiver while the majority clearly can't?

Here is one of the cases you mention, along with the scan you have shown Michael. They say, yes he had a shunt put in when he was young due to his hydrocephaly, but was below average intelligence i.e. he had an IQ of 75, while the average is 100.

They also mention the brain is more elastic in the pre and post natal periods. And why as I mentioned it appears some children with traumatic brain damage have also had better outcomes than adults with similar damage. Lyn x.

Well the neuroscientist Raymond Tallis has accepted simple matter - as defined by materialism - can't hold memories anymore than a broken cup holds a memory of the past form. Same with Sheldrake.

I also like Braude's paper Memory Without A Trace which attempts to explain why engram encoding would lead to infinite regress. My one complain is I wish he'd spend a bit more time clearly elucidating why the brain can't be doing things like pattern matching encoded data.

I'm largely convinced by their arguments that memories aren't held by the brain. I realize however that it's the science that will end up deciding the truth or falsity of such things.

Stephen Robbins has covered this extensively in "Time and Memory: A primer on the scientific mysticism of consciousness." The settling of whether one agrees with his conclusions would seemingly necessitate a reading of the book.

Bruce said:

"Could you clarify what you're trying to say here? Are you saying that precognitive dreams in some way depend on what happens *before* we go to sleep?

If that's your meaning, it runs counter to my own experience."

Hi Bruce..sorry, was away for the weekend. Yes, I'd be happy to clarify.

I know like me you're a long time observer of the precognitive elements in your dreams. I've often noticed that waking precongitions..that is when your day dreaming thoughts drift onto something that turns up in real life soon after..are, when traced backwards, the result of a chain of associations from an intial, usually external trigger, such as something you see on tv or read in a book. And I've speculated that there is presumably no difference between these experiences and precognitive dreams.

Well back in December I conducted a personal experiment of sorts which rendered clues that this is precisely what's happening. The precognition is in every practical sense a memory of the future. And like all memories, it is triggered..directly or through a chain of somethng having first *reminded* you of the coming event. The reason this isn't reflected in your experience is simply because it isn't remotely obvious. I'm extrapolating a general principle from a couple of specific incidents...but it answers one of the most fundamental conundrums of precognitive dreams: why are they generally so trivial, and why dream of future event X instead of future event Y?

Here's what I did: for precisely two weeks I managed to wake and record "every" dream every night (that's to say 4-6 recordings per night) into a digital recorder. I then uploaded the recordings each morning onto the computer while writign key word/image notes for each one in a corresponding word file. So I would constantly read back these summaries and note where the contents of each dream matched events that had occurred prior to the dream and where they matched events subsequent to the dream. Doing this I discovered a few facts about PDs I would never have guessed and suspect have rarely been guessed by interested researchers.

First and foremost amongst these was that it is not something that happens on special nights, nor is it infrequent...precogntion was apparent night after night after night. Normally when dreams are recalled or even recorded its the latter half of hte last major dream that is noted down...but here I had details of dreams throughout the night and it became apparent that future elements appear in them all of the time and are simply forgotten.

A second observation I was able to make answers your question. As I say I only noticed it a couple of times, but there is no reason to presume it doesn't account for ever precog, but simply unnoticed. It was this: a couple of dreams while indisputably revealing the future, had involved related material having passed my conscious mind prior to the dream. That is I had, I concluded, encountered somethign sufficient to remind me of the future event..and this, as I say, would explan why we dream of one particular future event and not another. It all depends if there was something relatable to remind us of what's to come.

The two examples from current recollection where these: I had a dream involving a particular tv celebrity. The celebrity had been on television that night, ie prior to the dream, so naturally it made sense to categorise his appearance in the dream as inspired by the past. However several days later the same person was unexpectedly in a different tv show in circumstances compltely relevant to the dream..suggesting it had in fact been a dream inspired by the future, not the past.

Incident two: at Christmas one of my siblings bought me a novelty gift of a bobble head of Burt Ward as Robin the Boy Wonder. Listening to the previous night's recordings I referenced in them Burt Ward as Robin the Boy outright precogntive hit. But I happened to also recall the subject of a robin (redbreast) had passed my thoughts and attention the previous day, ie prior to the dream. So again there was a "reminder" of the future event, by word association which I speculate triggered that particular precogntive dream.

From these two incidents I hypothesise and believe that such reminders - forgotten, unnoticed, perhaps even unconsious - precede all precognitive dreams. And if PDs are, as they appear to be, memories, then it only makes sense that they should.

Interesting, Lawrence. Sounds like you're a precognition geek like me. :)

"From these two incidents I hypothesise and believe that such reminders - forgotten, unnoticed, perhaps even unconsious - precede all precognitive dreams."

Here's why I think your generalization is on shaky ground.

I've documented hundreds of dreams over the years, and like you, I find that a surprising number are precognitive.

But here's the thing: I specifically do NOT record dreams that bring to mind events from the previous day. I focus only on dreams that seem entirely unexpected and unanticipated.

And that's because my focus has always been on proving that precognition is real. And if a dream is as likely to have been triggered by a past event as a future one, that muddies the water, and makes any potential evidence less compelling for my purposes.

Yet despite that weeding out, precognition runs rampant through the dreams I document.

See my point?

On the other hand, I largely agree with you in the sense that I believe a single dream can mirror more than one waking event. Any combination is possible as I see it: a future event and a past one; several past events; or several future ones.

So I think what you're seeing may well be real.

Lawrence, I'm also open to the possibility that you may be noticing something I've been ignoring. I just remembered that a really strong precognitive dream I once had showed some weaker possible associations with events from the previous day.

That may be true of some others too.

You might be referring to the larger point, as I said, that the corresponding waking events can sometimes be bunched. Not usually, in my experience, but sometimes. And that bunching can take many forms (as in the examples I gave.)

It's awesome about your precognitive dreams, Lawrence and Bruce! I consider myself moderately psychic, but I've never had them (maybe one precognitive OBE when I was young--but it wasn't a regular dream).

Like, Bruce, I've experienced several precognitive dreams - although not recently. Sometimes such dreams have been related, in progression, to a chain of events already begun - such as the planning of a visit to the bloodstock sales some years ago.

One such dream predicted (in a rather cryptic way) the name of the horse we would buy at that sale and which was bought while I was out of the sale ring and without prior reference to it in the catalogue.

"The future casts its shadow before it." - Goethe

Perhaps my long windedness has made my point unclear.

The two incidents I mentioned were indisputably precognitive..they referred very much to the details of the post dream event, not anything prior to the dream. However I could in those particular cases see that there was something prior to the dream which was at least associative, not necessarily with the dream per se but with the event the dream predicted. In the case of all other dreams I made no such observation but am speculating that it is probably always the case that some form of "reminder" of the upcoming event has triggered the chain of thought. It needn't be direct or obvious, and certainly not recollected later..but I suspect its always there.

For example.. the only times I've been able to say in advance that a particular dream is about a specific future event have been travel dreams. That is when I go away on weekend breaks I often, if not always, have PDs I can identify in advance relate to that trip and reveal unknowable details of events when I get there. What I'm saying is that the reason I have the dream on a particular night and on that particular theme is that something, a word, a conversation, a tv show, reading about travel or searchng for my passport has I supsect served as a reminder of the trip or of a specific event that will occur when I'm there (even though I don't yet know what that event will be). My subconscious (unconscious?) being so reminded wanders onto the FUTURE event in the course of the dream. In exactly the same way I might be reminded unconsciously of a past event and dream about that instead.

I can envisage a hypothetical experiment to test this. Suppose you have a box in wich you place an object which you will open and reveal to me tomorrow. And suppose then the task is to try and dream what the contents of said box were going to be. I might then be shown a visual of the box itself, or have a matching box at this end to play with, practicing opening it etc in the hope of it reminding me of tomorrow's experience of having you open and reveal teh contents of the test box. That would presumably need to be something I were witness to or participant in rather than informed about.

I'm not suggesting we actually conduct such an experiment.. there are probably countless flaws in the procedure I've outlined, but you get the idea. It's not a case of the dream possibly being about somethgn you witnessed yesterday and therefore to be discounted but rather that something yesterday which you may not even have thought too much about served in a circuitous way or through a chain of association behind the scenes to lead your mind onto the future event, and hence it is that you dream about that conversation you overhear at the bustop rather than a major world event that is going to happen on the same day. You had a "reminder" of your future experience of the former rather than the latter.

It doesn't get much more precognitive than this. It was 1969 in Auckland NZ, I awoke from a vivid dream about a horse race that was won by Alakazam. I had zero interest in horses or racing but the dream was so powerful I made further enquiries and discovered Alakazam was racing in a couple of days. I had to have a small bet, several of my friends joined me and Alakazam romped home. I was only 22 at the time and I've always felt it was a kind of wake up call to show me that reality was far more mysterious than what I believed. Indeed, I have had several other "lessons" since.

I enjoy your blog lots, Michael.

"It's awesome about your precognitive dreams, Lawrence and Bruce!"

Thanks, Matt. I'm really enjoying writing my book on the subject. It's taking shape beautifully.

I can hardly wait to share it with you all. Next year, I hope!

Cool stuff on precognitive dreams. I really need to get better at recording my dreams.

Btw Eric Wargo has written a lot of interesting stuff on the nature of reality and precognition over on his blog Night Shirt.

One of the takeaways I got from him was that much precognition is simply negated by free will, but sometimes we might end up on the very path we predict.

Back when we lived in East Tennessee I actually called the FBI office in Knoxville and said to them, "Ya'll are probably going to think I'm crazy but I've had dreams that came true before so last night I dreamed that there were these Islamic terrorists who were up on a Dam and were trying to blow it up." The FBI guy was real polite to me and said "No, I don't think you are crazy and thank you for calling us."

So the next week the Park Ranger at Norris Dam State Park caught 2 Arab guys and a girl up on top of Norris Dam at 5:30 am taking pictures of the Dam. When he asked them what they were doing they said they were "just taking pictures." Turns out the 2 guys were in the country illegally and had gotten illegal forged drivers licenses in Virginia. I dreamed about those two guys a week before it happened. They were taking pictures of a Dam 7 miles from our house.

Because this comments section isn't live and we're writing on different continents its likely I'll be writing over a response to my previous posting. But after a bit of a struggle I've thought of an example to explain better what I'm trying to suggest as a process.

It's an example of waking precognition..when somethng occurs which you had just been thinking about, and you're taken aback because as far as you're concerned you don't know why you'd been thinking about it. It just "popped into your head". I've long realised this is never true. If you're able to trace your chain of thoughts back there is always an objective external trigger for them. And I'm saying the process I'm about to describe applies equally to precognition in dreams.

So, the example: a number of years ago I was waiting in a shopping centre for a friend when I glanced upon a particular faceless mannequin. Despite it's lack of features it somehow strongly reminded me of a friend I'd not seen for a long while called Jon..maybe it was the pose, or the clothing, but something about it made my daydreaming mind think of Jon. So much so that when I got home I emailed a mutual friend to ask if he was still around and what had happened to him.

That very evening I had the tv on, sound down, flicking between channels while actually listening to the radio. I pause on the local news station, untypically, and there was Jon being interviewed while protesting against a visit by Condoleeza Rice.

Having not seen him in two years he pops up the very day I spontaneously had thought and been asking about him. So what happened? Well what was apparent to me is that it wasn't spontaneous at all. The mannequin was an external objective trigger for the thoughts. In effect, it dawned on me, it had not caused me to remember him from the past as I would naturally assume but rather to anticipate remember my much nearer encounter with him in the future.

I believe that when the mind/brain encounters novel information - in this case the mannequin I'm absent mindedly staring at - a process begins behind the scenes of looking for associations and links to existing information. It finds the nearest match in time and the conscious part of your mind wanders on to that match by a chain of association or word play or what have you. If the nearest connection is in the past we call it a memory. But if the nearest connection is in the future our minds wander on to that instead.

I'm suggesting that precisely the same process accounts for precognition in a dream. There is a pre-dream starting point, a trigger that reminds you of tomorrow's experience. This is also accounts for why most PDs relate to a day or two in the future but some, equally trivial, to months's whatever is the most recent event your unconscious mind is "reminded of" or can find a link to.

Which brings us back to the original topic of this thread. It suggests that memories are stored somewhere external to the normal experience of time.

Me too SPatel- I really need to record my dreams, not for precognizance, just to understand them. I've never had a cognitive dream ever, mine are just weird and sometimes wonderful.

I don't have the dreams of old, when I seemed to always have babies the size of ants and displace them somewhere, then be terrified all night I would stand on one.

I think in those days I felt responsible for everyone, hence that dream. Or something like that.

Recently there were three of us on a horse, a kind of extra long one obviously. And across the field was a dog, that came bounding across the field and then turned into a large lion with a face like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.

What that means, I have absolutely no idea. Hence I'm a little worried about having lucid ones. Lyn x.

@JS: I saw the Robbins book was $5.99 on Kindle so I figured it was worth a look.

Just wanted to thank you as I'm so far very impressed at how Robbins uses both philosophy and science to make his point against materialism and computational models of the mind.

That he's a big fan of Bergson is also a point in his favor. :-)

Lawrence said:

"It's not a case of the dream possibly being about somethgn you witnessed yesterday and therefore to be discounted but rather that something yesterday which you may not even have thought too much about served in a circuitous way or through a chain of association behind the scenes to lead your mind onto the future event"

I hear you, Lawrence, but my own experiences simply haven't brought this dynamic to my attention often enough to make me feel that it's always part of the equation.

Believe it or not an example of the very (waking) experience I described happened while describing it!

Before I settled on the story about Jon I originally intended to make up a hypothetical example. I looked around the room I'm sitting in to try and find an object or image from which to imagine a sequence of thoughts that might stem from it and lead to thinking about something that I enounter in real life later.

My attention fell on a very small black and white picture on the shelf just above my eye level of my father in the 1950s posing on a motorbike, and thought what might that remind me of.. hmm..well I suppose Marlon Brando..the Wild One..and, I was going to say, that thought might lead from that to me thinking about other Marlon Brandon movies, and maybe a scene or different actor would enter my head which I might then find turning up in some context tomorrow in real lif etc etc.

But I thought I still wasn't being very clear, so I abandoned that hypothetical example and wrote the one about Jon from memory instead.

About 3 hours later I switch on a tv quiz of the categories was Marlon Brando movies. The winning answer was the Wild One....

But of course it was.

"They are unwanted, inconvenient scraps of data, duly reported and quickly filed away."

Thanks to "the wipe," as Fort called it.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)