Sixth sense a reality: Research

A five year study monitoring brain activity during therapy sessions uncovered the mystery of “sixth sense” and how two people interact on a physiological level. The study from Sydney revealed how parts of their nervous systems can be aligned despite having no physical contact with each other.

Lead researcher Trisha Stratford, the neuropsychotherapist at University of Technology, Sydney said that her study can provide a deeper understanding of what happened when people interacted, including when a couple fell in love. She has a master’s degree in psychotherapy, majoring in neuroscience. This can also provide evidence about how best to communicate with or “chat up”’ a potential partner using this sixth sense.

For the study she included 30 volunteers and using electrocardiography and a monitor on the finger to measure skin conductance resonance to identify the moment of alignment or “oneness” during individual counseling with a therapist. The volunteers were aged 21 to 65 and were assessed by six therapists in a trial period of more than 180 hours.

According to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Carl Marci in his study three years ago a connection or “physiological concordance” between two people was established but needed more evidence. “’Interestingly, I had already started my PhD looking into the same thing as Dr Marci…I replicated his research but then I froze that point of two people becoming one and looked at what was happening in the brain… It was very exciting. When we’re in this moment of oneness or an altered state, the most exciting thing is that a part of the brain called the parietal lobe is fired into action… When this happens we can read each other’s brains and bodies at a deeper level – a sixth sense,” said Ms Stratford, who has published one paper and is awaiting publication of three others submitted to international journals.

Sara Lal, senior lecturer in the university’s department of medical and molecular biosciences agreed saying the visual and audio face-to-face communication between the therapists and the volunteer patients had resulted in the alignment of what is known as their autonomic nervous systems. She said, “It really is quite eerie when you see the traces on the screen start to match each other as they come into alignment…We now believe physiological alignment is required for successful therapy.”

The study revealed that while being counseled there were changes in the patients’ body language and focus of the eyes. Soon the patients became oblivious to the surroundings. They had lower levels of anxiety and lower heart rates at the end of the sessions. They all said they had benefited from them. Ms Stratford said this principle could be applied to teachers and students and between doctors and patients.

According to psychotherapist Alan Meara, president of Gestalt Australia & New Zealand, who was a PhD supervisor for the research said, “This sixth sense isn’t something that is magical. It is something that the human brain is wired to do. The research shows that we do have the capacity to understand people at a deeper level than we normally do in general conversation.”

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