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October 2021

Reports of peak- and other experiences during a neurotechnology-based training program, part 2

Journal/Book: J Amer Soc Psychical Res. 1999; 93: 5 West 73Rd Street, New York, NY 10023, USA. Amer Soc Psychical Res Inc. 1-98.

Abstract: This study examined the nature of self-reported peak- and other powerful experiences during a 6-day residential, neurotechnology-based training program. Neurotechnologies are methods and devices that purportedly enhance mental functioning by entraining brain-wave patterns, often producing a psychophysiological state of hemispheric synchronization. A partial review of the literature on these subjects was presented in Part 1 in the preceding issue of this Journal. A 2-part peak-experience questionnaire was developed. Part 1 collected retrospective self-reports of participants' experiences; Part 2 gathered information on their impact and the processes of integration. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator measured participants' personality characteristics; the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument measured cognitive styles. Of 160 participants (81 males, 79 females), 121 reported 75 types of peak-and other experiences. These were grouped by phenomenological content under 4 categories: ''intensified sensory and perceptual,'' ''cognitive,'' ''psychodynamic,'' and ''transpersonal.'' Types, intensity, and richness of patterns of experience reported were strikingly similar to those reported by psychedelic (LSD) researchers. Short-term aftereffects occurred in 4 areas: ontological, spiritual, psychological, and bioenergetical. Longer-term aftereffects resembled changes associated with the sustained practice of meditation. Most experiences had a moderate to ''life-changing'' impact. Peak-experiences, narrowly defined, had the greatest reported impact overall. Chi-square analyses yielded nonsignificant differences between peak-experiencers (n = 16) and non-experiencers (n = 20) on personality type, cognitive style, religious affiliation, educational level, age, and gender. However, differences approached significance on religious orientation (chi (2) = 2.043, p = .15288), which may indicate a trend worthy of further investigation with a larger sample. Mental engagement with experiences was important in integrating and being changed by them. This was evidenced by the positive relationship between amount of time spent thinking about one's experiences and their degree of impact (r(S) =.4849, p < .001). The most preferred method of integration involved discussing one's experiences, followed by reading about similar experiences, keeping one's experiences to oneself, and writing about one's experiences. Factors hindering the integrative process are discussed. Results contribute to understanding the varieties of exceptional human experience.

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