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 Table of Contents    
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 56  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 206-208
Relevance of parapsychology in psychiatric practice: Response to Dr. R. C. Jiloha's comments

Department of Clinical Psychology, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, Karnataka; Department of Psychiatry, HIHT, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Web Publication11-Apr-2014

How to cite this article:
Pasricha SK. Relevance of parapsychology in psychiatric practice: Response to Dr. R. C. Jiloha's comments. Indian J Psychiatry 2014;56:206-8

How to cite this URL:
Pasricha SK. Relevance of parapsychology in psychiatric practice: Response to Dr. R. C. Jiloha's comments. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2014 [cited 2020 Jan 27];56:206-8. Available from:


I appreciate Dr. Jiloha's enthusiasm in collecting information to write a rejoinder to my article that was intended to sensitize mental health professionals, particularly in clinical practice, in the identification of paranormal experiences and their differentiation from psychopathological conditions as well as management and to acquaint, "a psychiatrist who is not at least open-minded about the possibility of paranormal experiences will almost certainly be unable to distinguish psychopathological from paranormal and equally unable to assist the occasional person who is perplexed about unusual experiences that he would like to report and discuss with someone outside his family." (p4. Para 1R, last sentence).

However, I fear the author may mislead readers by certain of his comments and questionable use of references.

In the opening paragraph, the author includes gut-feelings, dreams, empathy, and inspired creativity, etc., "as extrasensory perceptions as they require the use of sensory perception outside the five physical senses." This is incorrect. Most of us know that the gut-feelings and inspired creativity may be explained in terms of heightened functioning of normal senses; dream and empathy, likewise, do not come under the purview of paranormal phenomena and have normal explanations.

The author's comment on telepathy, "(as) currently emerging into the physical body of knowledge," is not supported by his reference (#3); it does not discuss telepathy and the second reference (#2) is taken from a popular book. Furthermore, his attempt to integrate parapsychological phenomena with modern neuroscience by equating modeling and mirroring to telepathy seems too naïve and far-fetched. Modeling and mirroring are very different from telepathy, and much research is available linking them to the physical senses and known brain processes. [1],[2],[3],[4]

The statement on the incidence of near-death experiences (NDEs) in cardiac patients is reasonable, but the cited reference (#8) has been taken from a newspaper; there are far better scientific publications on the subject. [5],[6] And, his citation (#10) for NDEs as being considered as hallucinations is inappropriate; it does not regard NDEs as hallucinations. His comment that "paranormal specialists claim them (NDEs) to be evidence of an afterlife" needs correction. It is true that some of them do but by no means all of them consider it to be so; and those who do consider them as evidence of afterlife do so following stringent research criteria. [7],[8] Besides, the author supports his statements with references that are either taken from unpublished presentations, or popular literature.

Dr. Jiloha's final comment concerning reincarnation, "such supernatural beliefs require unquestioning credulity" shows that either he has chosen to ignore or is unaware of the body of scientific evidence available on the subject which although, does not prove reincarnation, definitely provides a sound basis for believing that it could be true. The author himself has cited a relevant reference (#17) to the birthmarks and deformities related to previous lives, although the latest reference to the same work by the same author (#27) has been cited in my article along with several other important references on reincarnation. And the suggestion for deoxyribonucleic acid testing of subjects of cases of the reincarnation type seems quite unrealistic in the present context.

Apart from the misgivings about the paranormal phenomena, the author seems to have been either uninformed or careless in choosing the references to substantiate his arguments. Leaving aside the first reference to the article under discussion, only six references (#4, 5, 9, 10, 15, and 17) are cited from the peer-reviewed journals, out of which, as stated earlier, one (#10) does not refer to what it is cited for; hence <33% citations are from scientific journals. The remaining about 67% are cited from unpublished presentations, or broadcast interviews (#3, 6, 12, and 14); newspaper and newsletters (#7 and 8) or popular books of unknown scholarly merit (#2, 11, 13, and 16). To uphold the standards of a scientific journal of IJP repute, I think, one needs to be cautious about selecting references to substantiate one's arguments or comments.

To sum up, Dr. Jiloha's letter has little to do with the relevance of parapsychology in psychiatric practice. His endeavor to equate telepathy with mirroring and modeling is not convincing, as it overlooks a large body of research linking them to normal senses and well recognized brain processes. His comments on NDEs and reincarnation include statements that are not supported by relevant references. Finally, there is hardly any practical suggestion for research relevant to the title of the article and selection of the references is far from satisfactory for a scientific journal. On the whole, his letter, while containing interesting theoretical speculations, offers little insight relevant to clinical psychiatric practice.

   References Top

1.Cattaneo L, Rizzolatti G. The mirror neuron system. Arch Neurol 2009;66:557-60.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Carr L, Iacoboni M, Dubeau MC, Mazziotta JC, Lenzi GL. Neural mechanisms of empathy in humans: A relay from neural systems for imitation to limbic areas. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2003;100:5497-502.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Iacoboni M, Mazziotta JC. Mirror neuron system: Basic findings and clinical applications. Ann Neurol 2007;62:213-18.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Koski L, Iacoboni M, Dubeau MC, Woods RP, Mazziotta JC. Modulation of cortical activity during different imitative behaviors. J Neurophysiol 2003;89:460-71.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Greyson B. Incidence and correlates of near-death experiences in a cardiac care unit. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2003;25:269-76.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.van Lommel P, van Wees R, Meyers V, Elfferich I. Near-death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: A prospective study in the Netherlands. Lancet 2001;358:2039-45.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Stevenson I, Greyson B. Near-death experiences. Relevance to the question of survival after death. JAMA 1979;242:265-7.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Kelly EW, Greyson B, Stevenson I. Can experiences near-death furnish evidence of life after death? Omega 1999-2000;40:513-19.  Back to cited text no. 8

Correspondence Address:
Retired Prof. Satwant K Pasricha
Department of Clinical Psychology, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, Karnataka; Department of Psychiatry, HIHT, Dehradun, Uttarakhand
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.130516

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