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HeatherAdministrator

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A Neurobiology of Sensitivity?
      06/04/06 12:16 PM

A Neurobiology of Sensitivity? New Study Suggests a Link
Between Environmental Sensitivity and Anomalous Perceptions

Vienna, Virginia (April 24, 2006) – People with a ‘sensitive’ personality type are far more likely to report apparitional experience, according to a paper in the current issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. Such persons commonly report longstanding allergies, chronic pain and fatigue, depression, migraine headaches, or sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. These individuals are also more likely to report that immediate family members suffered from the same conditions. The survey raises the question of whether a ‘neurobiology of sensitivity’ could underlie reports of apparitional experience occurring across societies and throughout history.

Sixty-two self-described ‘sensitives’ participated in the study, along with 50 individuals serving as controls who did not profess any outstanding forms of sensitivity. Persons in the former group were 3.5 times as likely, on average, to assert that they’d had an apparitional experience (defined as perceiving something that could not be verified as being physically present through normal means). Sensitive persons were also 2.5 times as likely to indicate that an immediate family member was affected by similar physical, mental or emotional conditions.

Overall, 8 of the 54 factors asked about in the survey were found to be significant in the makeup of a sensitive personality:

Being female
Being a first-born or only child
Being single
Being ambidextrous
Appraising oneself as imaginative
Appraising oneself as introverted
Recalling a plainly traumatic event (or events) in childhood
Maintaining that one affects - or is affected by – lights, computers, and other electrical appliances in an unusual way.

Additionally, synesthesia – the scientifically recognized condition of overlapping senses, such as hearing colors or tasting shapes – was reported by approximately 10% of the sensitive group but not at all among controls.

This finding gives added weight to the possibility that apparitional perceptions stem from an underlying neurobiology of sensitivity.

“It seems quite possible,” writes study author Michael Jawer, “that certain individuals are, from birth onward, disposed to a number of conditions, illnesses, and perceptions that, in novelty as well as intensity, distinguish them from the general population. If so, apparitional experience might have a bona fide neurobiological basis that makes it accessible to scientific inquiry.”

The paper is posted online at http://cogprints.org/4846/. The Society for Psychical Research, founded in 1882 by a distinguished group of Cambridge University scholars, is the foremost British organization for the scientific study of anomalous perceptions. Its website is http://www.spr.ac.uk/.


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Heather is the Administrator of the IBS Message Boards. She’s the author of Eating for IBS and The First Year: IBS, and the CEO of Heather's Tummy Care. Join her IBS Newsletter. Meet Heather on Facebook!

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