The Roads to Supernormality: A Biological Perspective

Alejandro Álvarez

Unidad Parapsicológica de Investigación, Difusión y Enseñanza (UPIDE)

Centro de Investigación de la Sintergia y la Consciencia (CISC)

Mexico City, Mexico

Introduction: In the last century, there have been great advances to try to explain how psychic phenomena could occur, but there is still a great void regarding plausible biological explanations. However, in the last few years, there has been growing evidence concerning a biological basis that can allow for psychic functioning. I have identified nine possible situations from which people consider they have obtained psychic abilities, grouped into four categories:

1. Hereditary. Some people are said to be “psychic-born,” though sometimes the appearance of psychic abilities occurs in a later stage of their lives . A genetic component could be argued if some of their blood relatives also possess psychic abilities, which is usually the case.

2. Stressful. Refers to both psychological and cellular stress. The sources of psi that fall within this category are Unidentified Aerial Phenomena encounters, Near-Death Experiences , deep psychological traumas (i.e., poltergeist cases), and being struck by lightning like some shamans .

3. Directed. People who have never had any type of psychic ability and, through training, manage to succeed at psi tasks; for example, people from the STARGATE project categorized as “normal, nonpsychic individuals”, and meditators who spontaneously experience psi phenomena.

4. Induced. This is usually achieved by taking psychedelic substances, such as DMT, LSD, or mescaline, among others.

The latter three categories involve situations that have a physiological effect on the individuals. So it seems likely that the different roads to supernormal abilities involve some common biochemical, regulatory, and/or epigenetic features.

Approach: Let us assume that there is a biological trait, most likely a brain structure, responsible for the experience and performance of psi phenomena. Considering the different scenarios by which people report acquiring such abilities, it is highly improbable that a different structure is involved in each case. Indeed, the most likely scenario involves the physiological convergence into a single brain region, perhaps the extra connections in the caudate-putamen area. Furthermore, we would expect it to be the same structure in “psychic-born” people and in those who do not inherit psychic abilities but acquire theme during their lifetimes. This suggests that the difference between inheritance and acquisition has more to do with genetic (or epigenetic) regulation than with being born with the “right genes.”

Proposal: A possible mechanism that could account for psi development is genetic compensation. In many cases, mutants for an essential trait do not show deleterious effects. This is achieved because, somehow, another gene (or genes) is compensating for the loss of function. This means that there are different “roads” that lead to the same phenotype, which rely on the activation of regulatory pathways that lead to different gene expression patterns so that the individual keeps its robustness and develops normally.

I propose two scenarios that relate to the appearance of psi. “Psychic-born” people possess specific genes that are expressed normally, perhaps in a specific brain region, which in turn favors an innate development of anomalous cognition and/or perturbation. On the other hand, “non-psychic-born” individuals may go through situations during their lifetime which effects are known to produce deep physiological modifications (i.e., Stressful, Directed, or Induced). These can lead to alteration of gene expression patterns in a way that could resemble genetic compensation through epigenetic changes and/or pathways involving different kinds of RNA molecules. Such modifications in gene expression may ultimately be reflected in a modification of the brain region that permits psychic functioning, which is most likely the same as in “psychic-born” individuals.

Conclusion: Recent studies with people prone to events that involve anomalous cognition are beginning to shed some light in what a biological basis for supernormality might be. Although a hereditary component seems to be involved, when we consider the different situations leading to psi development it seems unlikely that it all relies in specific gene variants (polymorphisms). Here, I have proposed a plausible mechanism that could allow the acquisition of psi talent through different scenarios. It involves changes in neuronal connectivity through modifications of gene expression patterns, induced by a wide range of situations. These findings, in combination with state-of-the-art methodologies in genetics, neuroimaging, and “omics” technologies, could allow us to have a better understanding of why psychic abilities arise in the first place, and why there is a large gradient of them when comparing different people.

Published on May 19, 2022