Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Zaps Theism and Bigotry

Scientists have been zapping subjects with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for three decades now, so this 2015 study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is just another step in our ongoing efforts to treat neurological conditions and explain the brain with magnets.

The basics of TMS are fairly simple: An electromagnetic coil produces electric currents that stimulate nerve cells in a targeted region of your brain. This process allows researchers to shut down or stimulate specific portions of the brain in order to see how they affect our overall cognitive experience.

Researchers have produced promising results with TMS in the treatment of neuropathic pain and severe depression — and these are certainly important areas of study, but TMS studies dealing with paranormal experience often steal the headlines.

Cognitive neuroscientist Michael Persinger's 1980s "God helmet" research stands as the most widely covered example of such research. Persinger targeted regions of the temporal lobe with a special TMS-enabled motorcycle helmet and claimed that such stimulation resulted in states of paranormal experience. These findings have proven increasingly controversial, however, due to continued criticism of the study's evidence base and the lack of replication.

Still, numerous other TMS studies continue to explore the mysteries of the human brain — including the neurological mechanisms underpinning our contemplations of the divine, as we discuss in the above video.