Time Flies (Backwards?)

Studies by Professor Benjamin Libet at University of California San Francisco in the late 1970's on awake neurosurgery patients suggested that the brain refers information "backwards in time". Simple activities like the sensation of walking (seeing and feeling your feet hit the pavement) may also involve backwards time referral. Vision of your feet hitting pavement should occur well before the sensory feel of your feet touching the pavement because of conduction times and synaptic delays through the long nerves and spinal cord from your feet, yet we perceive seeing and feeling as simultaneous. So, either a) the "fast" visual information is delayed, b) the sight and feel are experienced separately, but remembered as simultaneous, or c) the slow information is referred "backwards in time" (from the near future) to match the fast information. From an evolutionary standpoint, a) "living in the past" would seem disadvantageous, as nonconscious "living in the disjointed present" animals would have a significant advantage. b) implies "Orwellian revisionism" (as Dennett puts it) and suggests that we aren't really conscious in any rational way in the present, that our experience is "edited". But c) seems preposterous. How can information run backwards in time? Penrose first suggested that quantum effects in the brain could explain backwards referral, and that such effects may occur commonly, even routinely. It turns out that in quantum mechanics, quantum information can indeed run backwards, or be time indeterminate. The Aharonov formulation suggests that each quantum state reduction has a dual vector, both forward and backwards in time.

To investigate these possibilities, Dean Radin and Dick Bierman have performed a number of experiments of emotional response in human subjects. The subjects view a computer screen on which appear (at randomly varying intervals) a series of images, some of which are emotionally neutral, and some of which are highly emotional (violent, sexual....). In Radin and Bierman's early studies, skin conductance of a finger was used to measure physiological response They found that subjects responded strongly to emotional images compared to neutral images, and that the emotional response occurred between a fraction of a second to several seconds BEFORE the image appeared! Recently Professor Bierman (University of Amsterdam) repeated these experiments with subjects in an fMRI brain imager and found emotional responses in brain activity up to 4 seconds before the stimuli. Moreover he looked at raw data from other laboratories and found similar emotional responses before stimuli appeared. Professor Bierman presented these findings to the recent Tucson conference.

Professor Bierman's Tucson Conference Presentation

Power Point File: tucson-2002.ppt (8.81 mb)

Anomalous Anticipatory Brain Activation Preceding Exposure Of Emotional And Neutral Pictures (PDF)
Dick J. Bierman and H. Stephen Scholte
University of Amsterdam