Pineal Gland & 3rd Eye!
Recent Findings Relating to the possible role of the Pineal Gland in affecting Psychic Ability.
S. M. Roney- Dougal.
[Source]Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 55, No. 815, p. 312-327.
AbstractIn recent years findings in neurochemistry and anthropology have given greater credence to the folklore which states that the pineal gland is the 'third eye', source of 'second sight', 'seat of the soul', or psychic centre within the brain (ajna chakra).
Recent neurochemical research has identified a class of compounds called beta-carbolines which appear to be endogenously produced in the pineal gland, most interest centering on the 6-methoxy-tetrahydrobetacarboline (GMeOTHBC), now being called pinoline. Beta-carbolines are found in the pineal gland in quantities equivalent to melatonin, the major pineal neurohormone, from which they may be synthesized. Beta-carbolines are neuromodulators in that they play a role in the fine tuning of the action of neurotransmitters (Buckholtz, 1980).
This neurochemical evidence concerning the pineal gland links directly with anthropologists' reports on the usage of a vine of the genus Banisteriopsis by South American tribes in the Amazon area. The Indians use the vine specificially for psychic purposes: to induce out-of-body visions, to assist in healing, for clairvoyance and for precognition. There are dozens of psychoactive plants in the Amazon basin, yet ALL of the tribes scattered over this vast area use this vine for psi effects. Chemical analysis of the vine reveals the presence of various harmala alkaloids, these being chemically very closely related to the pinoline found in the pineal gland.
The presence of pinoline, and also what we now know of the various functions of melatonin, in the pineal gland, appear to link directly with, and make sense of, many experimental findings in parapsychology:
( 1 ) Most spontaneous psi events occur whilst the person is drowsy, or asleep and dreaming. All research indicates that this state of consciousness is psi-conducive. Melatonin, and probably pinoline, are made at night and are related to sleep and possibly pinoline is the trigger for dreaming, in that it is an endogenously produced hallucinogen.
Keywords: pineal gland; harmaline;
beta-carboline; psi-conducive state.
IntroductionIf one reads recent papers in the parapsychology journals, it is clear that we are slowly but surely becoming increasingly knowledgeable about psi-conducive circumstances, in terms of the psychology of the process. The best examples of this are the various relaxation, dream, hypnotic, Ganzfeld, and remote-viewing experiments, e.g. Honorton (1977), Braud and Braud (1974), Krippner, Honorton and Ullman (1972).
All this research is beginning to elucidate the most appropriate methods for attaining conscious awareness of the psi information once it is 'in the brain' so to speak, and is perhaps beginning to come to some sort of understanding of the most appropriate state of consciousness for the apprehension of psi phenomena. There have been several theories formulated concerning this process of perception of psi information, although none of them have yet clarified any links with brain neurophysiology, e.g. Irwin (1979), Dixon (1979). Both Irwin and Dixon note that experimental results suggest that psi appears to involve preconscious semantic analysis, emotional coding and access to long-term memory. In Dixon's words:
'Hence we must assume that extrasensory effects lock into the nervous system at some stage PRIOR to those responsible for these functions yet capable of modulating the arousal systems of the brain. Sensory relays in the midbrain, thalamus, associative cortex, or limbic system would all be possible candidates for this hypothetical mediating function.' (Dixon, 1979, pp. 212-213). [our emphasis]
FOLKLORE: EAST AND WESTIt is becoming increasingly clear that a relaxed, meditative, 'altered' state of consciousness is psi-conducive. This finding corroborates traditional teachings and practices both East and West, e.g. Patanjali's teachings on yoga. Since this aspect of traditional lore is yielding to experimental research, it is worth examining other aspects to see if they too can yield experimental hypotheses that are testable.
Whilst there are doubts as to whether one can consider psi equivalent to a form of'perception', there is a considerable body of folklore which does so: the ideas of a 'sixth sense', or of a 'third eye'; the 'second sight' as it is called in Scotland. In Eastern (Indian) terminology the 'third eye' is called the 'ajna chakra', about which there is a considerable body of information. Some modern teachers of yoga, who also keep aware of Western research, equate the 'ajna chakra' with the pineal gland. Let me quote, as a brief introduction, from a booklet written by one such teacher, Swami Satyananda:
'All psychic systems have their physical aspects in the body . . . With ajna chakra the physical equivalent is the pineal gland, which has long baffled doctors and scientists as to its precise function.' He then goes on to discuss recent scientific research on the pineal gland and notes: 'Yogis, who are scientists of the subtle mind, have always spoken of telepathy as a "siddhi", a psychic power for thought communication and clairaudience, etc. The medium of such siddhis is ajna chakra, and its physical terminus is the pineal gland, which is connected to the brain. It has been stated by great yogis . . . that the pineal gland is the receptor and sender of the subtle vibrations which carry thoughts and psychic phenomena throughout the cosmos.' (Satyananda, 1972).We have here a testable hypothesis formulated by a man who is knowledgeable not only in Eastern lore, but appears to have read Western scientific literature as well. Thus, folklore and yogic teaching suggest that the 'third eye' (pineal gland) plays some part in the process of becoming aware of psi information, but what evidence is there that this is actually the case? For this we have to turn to the disciplines of neurochemistry and anthropology.
HARMALINE AND THE PINEAL GLANDThis section is the lynchpin of the whole hypothesis and so I am going to quote extensively from original articles. Neurochemical terminology can be very confusing to the uninitiated so it must be understood clearly that harmaline and its analogues are all betacarbolines, of which there are many varieties with very similar properties. See Figure 1.
Fig. 1. Chemical structure of Harmaline, 6-Methoxyharmalan and 6-Methoxytetra-
hydrobetacarboline. (Buckholtz, 1980; Rollag, 1982; Naranjo, 1967).
W. B. Quay (1974) in his textbook on pineal chemistry states that: 'Indirect and circumstantial evidence supports the possibility that the pineal gland may synthesise small amounts of beta-carbolines. This is a most interesting possibility in view of the neuropharmacological properties of many of these compounds. The proposed pineal beta-carbolines would all arise as cyclodehy-drogenation products of 5-HT (serotonin), 5-MT (5-methoxy tryptamine) or melatonin.' This indirect evidence was provided by Farrell and Mcisaac (1961) who thought that they had isolated a beta-carboline from cattle pineal. Later, Mcisaac (1961) demonstrated that 6-MeOTHBC can be formed under physiological conditions. It was also found that, at least in vitro, 6-methoxy harmalan can be formed from serotonin (Mcisaac, Khairallah and Page, 1961).
However, just recently this circumstantial evidence has been confirmed by several researchers. For example, S. Barker et al. (1981) report: 'Qualitative analysis of rat brain and adrenal extracts led to the identification of 2- MeTHBC, and 6-MeOTHBC as normal constituents of these tissues.' These findings of THBC in rat brain were confirmed independently by Honecker and Rommel-spacher (1978). Then in 1984, S. Z. Langer ιtal, found confirmation for humans: 'We now report that 6-MeOTHBC is present in high concentrations in the human pineal gland . . . We propose that 6-MeOTHBC may subserve the role of a hormone which modulates the neuronal uptake of serotonin and which is probably synthesised, stored and released by the pineal gland to fulfill this physiological function . . . The high levels of 6-MeOTHBC found in the human post-mortem pineal gland are comparable with those of melatonin, suggesting that the pineal may synthesize and store this endogenous ligand.' (Langer et al., 1984).
'Trozialeck et al. (1978) have observed 5-MeOTA, the apparent precursor for 6-MeOTHBC, to be located mainly in mid- and hind-brain structures and to the greatest extent in the pineal . . . Similar to the findings in brain tissues, 6-MeOTHBC appears to be present in the adrenal glands at approximately twice the concentration of the THBC ... The possibility still exists that these beta-carbolines may be sequestered in the adrenals following their formation in other areas of the body . . . The presence of 2MTHBC, THBC and 6-MeOTHBC in rat brain and adrenal glands implies an as yet unidentified role for this family of compounds in these and perhaps other organs. THBC and 6MeOTHBC have been shown to be potent inhibitors of serotonin neuronal uptake and to elevate plasma and brain levels of serotonin. These compounds are also inhibitors of monoamine oxidase.' (Barker et al., 1981).
It is thus becoming increasingly clear that the pineal is closely implicated with hallucinogenic compounds that are endogenously produced.
THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL EVIDENCEThis neurochemical evidence about the pineal gland is very revealing in that it links the folklore surrounding the pineal with certain specific divinatory practices amongst a large number of South American Indian tribes. These tribes all use a vine of the genus Banisteriopsis in order to induce visions for a variety of purposes. There are dozens of psychoactive plants in the Amazon basin, yet all the tribes use this plant for similar purposes (Rivier & Lindgren, 1972).
Early chemical investigations of the plant indicated the presence of an alkaloid which was given the name 'telepathine' in 1905 by Zerda Barren (Deulofeu, 1967). This alkaloid was later called yagein, banisterine, and was finally identified as harmine which had been independently isolated from seeds of Peganum Harmala more than a century ago. More recently Rivier & Lindgren (1971) have analysed the drink prepared by the Sharanahua and Culina from Banisteriopsis, and found it to contain harmine, harmaline, tetrahydroharmine, harmol and 6-methoxytryptamine. Hochstein & Paradies (1957) isolated three alkaloids (harmine, harmaline and d-tetrahydroharmine) from Banisteriopsis caapi and conclude: 'In view of the low degree of psychotomimetic activity reported for harmine, and the effectiveness ascribed to Banisteria caapi extracts, it seems likely that the harmaline or d-tetrahydroharmine may have substantial psychotomimetic activity in their own right.' There is an excellent review of this by Airaksinen & Kari (198la & 1981b) in addition to the Rivier & Lindgren review (1972).
In the 1960 s a Chilean psychotherapist, Claudio Naranjo (1973, 1978), used a variety of hallucinogens, including harmaline, in the psycho therapeutic setting, and came to the conclusion that:
'Harmaline may be said to be more hallucinogenic than mescaline . . . both in terms of the number of images reported and their realistic quality. In fact, some of the subjects felt that certain scenes which they saw had really happened and that they had been as disembodied witnesses of them in a different time and place. This matches the experience of South American shamans who drink Ayahuasca for purposes of divination.' (Naranjo, 1967).The harmala alkaloids are extracted by shamans from Banisteriopsis (Banisteria) caapi in Colombia under the name of Yage, in Equador and Peru by the name of Ayahuasca, in Brazil by the name of Caapi, by the Jivaro tribe who call it Natema, and by the Cashinahua who call it Nixipae. Banisteriopsis is usually mixed with other plants such as Prestonia Amazonica and Psychotria Viridis (Cawa), which also have hallucinogenic properties (DMT) that the tribes consider help to trigger the full effects.
The anthropological evidence, however, points to the harmala alkaloids being more than merely hallucinogenic. The original name 'telepathine' was not inappropriate as the following anthropologists' reports suggest: 'Among the Jivaro, it is felt that part of the soul may leave the body, with the subject having the sensation of flying, returning when the effects of the drug wear off . . . 'The Conibo-Shipibo Indians . . . report that a common function of Ayahuasca taking by shamans is to permit the shaman's soul to leave his body in the form of a bird.' . . . Among the Amahuaca 'a man's soul may leave his body when he drinks Ayahuasca.' (Harner, 1978, p. 158).
These experiences are also reported by the Ziparo, the Tukano and the Siona, and can be considered to be fairly typical reports of what are now called out-of-the-body experiences. But experience of out-of-body effects does not necessarily mean that the vine is psi-conducive, although it is a good indication that psi may be close by.
The Amahuaca report not only separation of the soul from the body, but that after the sorcerer has drunk Ayahuasca, his yoshi—a jaguar spirit—will appear to him and tell him everything he wants to know, including the whereabouts of the intended victim. The Conibo Indians believe that the taking of Ayahuasca permits them to see the supernatural aspect of nature, and the Jivaro shamans believe that they are seeing distant persons and what they are doing. Normally these are people and places that the shaman knows, but he frequently has the experience of travelling to distant and unfamiliar villages, towns and cities of the whites which he cannot identify but whose reality can readily be ascertained. These experiences can best be compared to clairvoyance and remote viewing.
Divination is however the most important aspect of the rite amongst those who use Ayahuasca for healing—or murder. To 'see' the shaman who has bewitched the patient the Ayahuasca drink is used, since it is considered to allow one better vision whilst curing and to allow for better diagnosis. It is also used to identify personal enemies and to locate the resting place of stolen or lost articles. Shamans also drink Ayahuasca 'when called upon to adjudicate in a dispute or quarrel; to give the proper answer to an embassy; to discover plans of an enemy; to tell if strangers are coming; to ascertain if wives are faithful; in the case of a sick man to tell who has bewitched him' and so on. (Harner, 1978, p. 160).
Possibly the most revealing evidence comes from a footnote in an article concerning the Cashinahua by the anthropologist K. M. Kensinger (1978):
'Hallucinations generally involve scenes which are a part of the Cashina-huas' daily experience. However, informants have described hallucinations far removed, both geographically and from their own experience. Several informants who have never been to, or seen pictures of, Pucallpa . . . have described their visits, under the influence of Ayahuasca, to the town with sufficient detail for me to be able to recognise specific shops and sights. On the day following one Ayahuasca party, six of nine men informed me of seeing the death of my chai, "my mother's father". This occurred two days before I was informed by radio of his death.Of course, this anthropological evidence needs testing within controlled laboratory conditions before we can judge the extent, if any, of the psi-conducive properties of harmaline or the other harmala alkaloids present in Banisteriopsis, with or without the DMT normally present in the tribes' drink. This research is already planned and should begin as soon as details concerning research grants are finalized.
THE NEUROCHEMISTRY OF PSI?For my PhD thesis I compared the ability to become aware of psi information with that to become aware of subliminal information, and was forced to the conclusion that the psychological processes involved were remarkably similar. Professor Norman Dixon, who assisted me along the way, has speculated about what this could mean in terms of the information locking into the brain system, i.e., at which point does the psi information become apparent in terms of neurological processes. He says:
'Given that the end result of subliminal perception is almost indistinguishable from extrasensory perception, namely, a purely statistical effect upon the probability matrix underlying the possible repertoire of behavioural and autonomie responses, it seems reasonable to ask at which processing stage extrasensory effects begin to occur—at the peripheral receptor, the midbrain, thalamic relays, cortex, or reticular system? If the results of extrasensory perception are likened to those of subliminal perception, then they must involve preconscious semantic analysis, emotional coding and access to long-term memory.' (Dixon, 1979).From the information already given about the pineal gland it seems to me that the limbic system is the place to which we must turn our attention since the pineal neurohormones act upon the hypothalamus and limbic system; the midbrain.
The anthropological data suggest that the harmala alkaloids are not only hallucinogenic in their effects, but that they are also a psi-conducive drug. The neurochemical data suggest that the harmala alkaloids act by affecting the pineal gland which makes a beta-carboline that is very similar in structure. The beta-carbolines almost certainly are linked in some way with serotonin and melatonin in their behavioural effects, so it is instructive to briefly survey what is known about these.
THE PINEAL GLAND
In general the pineal is a very active organ, having the second highest blood flow after the kidneys and equal in volume to the pituitary. It has the highest absorption of phosphorus in the whole body and the second highest absorption of iodine, after the thyroid. No other part of the brain contains so much serotonin or is capable of making melatonin. A unique anatomical feature is that it is an unpaired midline organ in the brain which, alone of all equivalent organs, has resisted encroachment by the corpus callosum (Wiener, 1968; Quay, 1974). Whilst being right in the centre of the brain, it is actually outside the blood-brain barrier and so is theoretically not part of the brain!
It is innervated solely by the autonomie nervous system. It shows extreme variability in size, form and internal structure from one individual to the next (Wurtman, 1979). There seems to be considerable functional connection between the pineal and the pituitary, in that their actions tend to be antagonistic, the pineal being inhibitory in relation to the pituitary. When LSD level is measured in the brain, it turns out that it concentrates mostly in the pineal and pituitary glands; secondarily in the limbic system structures such as the hippocampus, amygdala and fornix; and thirdly in the hypothalamus. (Wiener, 1968).
'The pineal synthesises and releases melatonin, and perhaps other hormones in response to norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter released from its post-ganglionic sympathetic nerves. As such, the pineal is a neuro-endocrine transducer like the adrenal medulla . . . The rate at which norepinephrine is released declines when light activates retinal photorecep-tors and increases when the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated (e.g., by hypoglycemia or severe stress).' (Wurtman & Moscowitz, 1977).The pineal contains a pair of enzymes hydroxyindole—O-methyl transferase (HIOMT) and indole-N-methyl transferase (INMT) which are able to convert serotonin into a number of potent hallucinogens (Most, 1986). If you increase the concentration of pineal serotonin and block its normal enzymatic inactiva-tion, it becomes a substrate for other pineal enzymes, like HIOMT and INMT which are methyl transfer enzymes that catalyse the transfer of a methyl group from one compound to another. Thus serotonin can be converted to, for example, 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyl tryptamine by these enzymes, a hallucinogen similar to the DMT found in cawa which the Amazonian Indians add to their Banisteriopsis brew (Most, 1986).
Normally serotonin is inactivated by the mitochondrial enzyme, monoamine oxidase (MAO), which converts it to an inactive metabolite. MAO is the major enzyme involved in the breakdown and inactivation of serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Thus any enzyme which interferes with MAO will cause a build up in serotonin levels, which will lead to the pineal gland making endogenous hallucinogens. Harmala alkaloids are serotonin antagonists, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens and extremely potent, short-term MAO inhibitors.
SEROTONIN AND MELATONIN
Those synapses in which serotonin is found form what are called serotonergic pathways. These are concentrated in the mid-brain structures of the pons, medulla oblongata, hypothalamus, limbic system and median forebrain bundle which ascends to the forebrain, with other connections to the reticular activating system and the spinal cord. These are the very same areas specified by Dixon (1979) as being the most likely interface point for psi to link in with the brain.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which has been implicated in a wide range of mental phenomena from sleep cycles to psychosis and psychedelics. Of more importance here is the fact that it is a chemical precursor of melatonin with which it alternates on a day—night basis. Serotonin is found in greatest concentrations in the pineal gland and melatonin is synthesized in the pineal gland. Both serotonin and melatonin exhibit a circadian rhythm, serotonin concentration being greatest during the day and melatonin at night. This rhythm is free-running if one is in constant darkness, but is severely disrupted if one stays in constant light. This is possibly the chemical mechanism behind the severe disorientation experienced by people who stay awake for several days, and is almost certainly implicated in the manic-depressive syndrome when this follows an annual cycle of mania in the summer and depression in the winter.
The concentration and rate of turnover of serotonin in the pineal is more than 50 times greater than in any other area of the brain.
'Comparison of the chemical structures of various hallucinogenic agents and tranquillizing drugs with the structures of ... norepinephrine and serotonin . . . suggest close similarities, and it is not surprising that these compounds have a profound influence on the transmission of nerve impulses and, as a consequence, on emotional states.' (Ott, 1976).Melatonin is produced not only by the pineal gland, but is found also in the retina, the Harderian gland, and in the gut. This latter could possibly be because serotonin causes contraction of the intestinal muscles by stimulating cholinergic and non-cholinergic excitatory nerves. Melatonin inhibits serotonin's action. Melatonin also controls eye pigmentation and thus regulates the amount of light reaching the photoreceptors. The pineal gland has been well named 'the third eye' as melatonin is active both in the pineal gland and in the eyes!
Melatonin has been called a neuroendocrine transducer which means that it is a hormone which has a profound effect on neurones as well. Amongst its hormonal effects, melatonin appears to mediate the effects of light on reproductive events in seasonally breeding mammals by inhibiting ovarian function and preventing blastocyst implantation during winter. It is also implicated in puberty onset in humans. This link between the pineal gland and sexuality could perhaps shed some light on the rather strange, and as yet totally unresearched, folklore which links psychic ability with puberty and celibacy. Melatonin is also implicated in the production of melanin.
At a neural level the single clearest effect of melatonin is that it induces drowsiness during darkness. Peak production is three to six hours after the onset of darkness. This could well shed light on other strange folklores surrounding psi phenomena. For example, many spiritual systems such as Catholic monks, Buddhists and Yogis all recommend rising at 3 a.m. to meditate, or to chant vespers, or some other practice which is primarily aimed at spiritual development but which seems to bring enhanced psi effects in its wake. And what about our own saying that 'Midnight is the magic or witching hour, when witches ride abroad'? Not to be forgotten in this context is the seminal research by Ullman, Krippner and Vaughan (1973) concerning the psi-conducive nature of dreams, which of course was done at night. All of these practices, however trivial, become more meaningful when linked with our slowly emerging knowledge concerning the pineal gland.
Melatonin also has been shown to have an antiepileptic effect, epileptics being considered to be seers in olden times; and, together with thyrotropin, is involved in coping with persistent long-term stress. It is well known that many shamans and mystics will undergo a rigorous training that puts them under persistent long-term stress, and during this time they tend to have mystical visions, out-of-body and psychic experiences.
Also associated with serotonin and melatonin in the pineal gland and retina is another class of compounds called beta-carbolines, which are endogenously produced in the pineal gland, and which, if taken orally in large quantities, are potent hallucinogens. Could this be the neurochemical trigger that stimulates neuronal thresholds to a psi-conducive state, whatever that may be?
Beta-carbolines are neuromodulators in the sense of playing an important role in the fine tuning of the actions of neurotransmitters. Their main action is inhibition of monoamine oxidase A, which breaks down serotonin and noradrenaline. That is, they prevent the breakdown of these neurotransmitters and so cause a build up of them in the synapses. It is this action that is the chemical concomitant of hallucinogens (Rimon et al., 1984).
Beta-carbolines also inhibit the transport of Na+ ions, and so affect the transport of nervous impulses (Hider, Smart & Suleiman, 1981). Some beta-carbolines bind to benzodiazepine receptors and so affect circulating plasma vasopressin concentration (Muller et al., 1981). Vasopressin has been linked with psi abilities in certain psychics (Roll and Montagno, 1984; Neppe, 1984).
Some beta-carbolines interact with adrenaline and noradrenaline uptake and output, which links with the stress findings of melatonin mentioned above. Some beta-carbolines cause an increase in corticosterone secretion indicative of pituitary/adrenal activity. Beta-carbolines seem to have an effect on temperature regulation, which could be connected with moulting, hibernation and other cyclic-seasonal effects already noted in connection with melatonin. Some beta-carbolines have analgesic effects, probably because of binding to the opiate receptors. Thus beta-carbolines appear to have quite wide-ranging neuro-endocrinological functions and effects (Airaksinen & Kari, 1981).
There is one specific beta-carboline, though, which I feel is of particular interest in this context and that is the 6-MeOTHBC mentioned in the introduction. The hormonal effects of this beta-carboline, in so far as it has only recently been identified and its effects are only beginning to be deduced, appear to resemble those of melatonin. It too shows a circadian rhythm; it inhibits the development of the genital organs, and in females it makes the dioestrus period longer or even totally abolishes the oestrus. Chronic administration of small doses causes the weights of the pituitary, ovaries and uterus to decrease, and the adrenals to increase. Plasma corticotrophin, aldosterone, beta-endorphin and prolactin concentration all increase with administration of 6-MeOTHBC (Leino et al., 1984). (It has been suggested that this beta-carboline be called 'pinoline'.)
When harmala alkaloids (the form of beta-carboline found in Banisteriopsis) are taken orally by humans, at the highest doses they cause visions, hallucinations, vomiting, tremor, buzzing in the ears, cold sweating, dysphoria, and a drop in the heart rate. At lower doses they cause bradycardia, difficulty in focusing the eyes, tingling, hypotension, cold extremities and light headedness. The major effect of 6-MeOharmalan is said to be akin to a state of inspiration and heightened introspection. There is less effect on the emotions and thought processes than with LSD, although there is a change in perception of colours, increased sensitivity to sound and taste, passivity and withdrawal (Airaksinen & Kari, 1981b).
It has been suggested that the visual symptoms have a retinal origin since beta-carbolines occur in the retina, and in cats given harmaline, changes in the electroretinagram are apparent before changes in the brain cortex are observed, these changes being increased alpha and decreased beta waves (Airaksinen & Kari, 1981b).
Let us first investigate the putative role of melatonin and serotonin in sleep, since it is during sleep and dreaming that the majority of spontaneous psychic experiences are reported (Rhine, 1981).
There is a nocturnal increase in electrical activity in the pineal under the influence of sympathetic fibres originating bilaterally in the superior cervical ganglia. Pineal activities are driven by the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) which are linked to the pineal primarily via the sympathetic innervation, but not much is known yet about its function. Reppert et al. (1988) have found that most of the melatonin is found in the SCN which lies very close to the optic nerves, at the front of the hypothalamus near the base of the brain. They think that because the SCN is so close to the optic nerve it could easily respond to light from the eyes.
Peak levels of melatonin occur at 2 a.m., when cortisol and serotonin concentrations are at their lowest. I have found only one reference to a circadian rhythm of 6-MeOTHBC, which is not very specific, but I assume that it too has its peak at night (Reiter, 1982).
J. C. Callaway (1988) and E. Whitehouse (1985) have both connected this rise with REM sleep. E. Whitehouse notes that babies, foetuses and small children dream and sleep a lot AND have higher melatonin levels. They are also considered to be more psychic (Spinelli, 1983).
'Melatonin also effects those serotonergic cells associated with the functions of sleep and dreaming. The cells are confined to the raphe nuclei and medulla. Fibres of the cells project widely to the forebrain and spinal cord in a pattern that resembles that of the noradrenaline fibres. The 5HT (serotonin) system appears to exert a widespread influence over arousal, sensory perceptions, emotion and higher cognitive functions.' (Whitehouse, 1985).Whitehouse continues to suggest that melatonin influences the serotonergic cells of the reticular activating system (RAS), which is considered by Norman Dixon to be central to the processing of subliminal perception, and so could also be linked with the awareness of psi information.
J. C. Callaway (1988) considers that the periodicity of REM sleep is due to interaction between the 6-MeOTHBC and serotonin, that beta-carbolines are functional in inducing REM dreaming, lucid dreaming and other naturally occurring ASCs such as some meditative states. He proposes that, with the onset of dark, melatonin production begins and this affects the RAS to cause sleep onset. Melatonin production continues to a point where it reaches sufficient concentration for production of 6-MeOTHBC to begin. At a certain concentration this triggers dreaming because of its hallucinogenic nature. But 6-MeOTHBC is an MAO inhibitor, so the small concentrations of serotonin that are present at night will start to build up to a point where dreaming is inhibited and the brain shifts into the next phase of sleep. This cycle recurs through the night, the ever-decreasing concentrations of serotonin, and increasing concentrations of 6-MeOTHBC acting to increase dream duration progressively until morning arrives.
Pavel et al. (1981) in an experiment with 13 young boys found that administration of melatonin and of arginine vasotocin (also synthesized by the pineal) caused sleep onset within 15 minutes at 9 a.m.! Both also reduced REM sleep latency to approximately 20 minutes after sleep onset. They reckon that melatonin is the releasing hormone for pineal arginine vasotocin.
Walker et al. (1986) consider that norepinephrine is the initiator of events ultimately controlling changes in the pineal serotonin content. Nearly half the pineal serotonin content resides in the gland's adrenergic neurons.
Formal laboratory studies of the relationship between sexuality and psi are virtually nonexistent. Apart from studies with children versus those with adults, there are two that I have found that look at psi in relation to the menstrual cycle—with very inconclusive results (Schmitt & Stanford, 1978; Keane & Wells, 1979). There is, though, a widespread folklore on the relationship, children and celibates supposedly being those with the most heightened psi abilities. Also poltergeist studies seem to suggest a relationship between puberty and adolescence and the chaotic psychic effects called poltergeist.
In animals and in humans the pineal appears to produce a hormone which works, together with the pituitary, to inhibit gonadal development and to regulate the onset of sexuality, either at puberty in humans, or on a seasonal basis in animals. The pineal normally starts a process of calcification (crystallisation?) at puberty (Ng & Wong, 1986; Vaughan & Reiter, 1986).
The pineal nighttime melatonin concentration decreases progressively during the oestrus cycles, with a massive increase at ovulation, and peak values during menstruation. Thus women have a 28-day melatonin rhythm. Melatonin seems to be 'taken up' by the ovaries, testes and uterus. Continuous light, which causes a decrease in melatonin production, also causes a decrease in ovarian melatonin concentration, whilst injections of melatonin result in smaller testes (Arendt, 1978).
Cyclicity in mammals is seasonal rather than monthly, i.e., according to sun cycles rather than moon cycles, and certain mammals such as deer and sheep, become impregnated in autumn, when the long days are shortening. Through the winter (short day length) the melatonin inhibits pituitary prolactin secretion and hence implantation of the blastocyst, which is held in a sort of suspended animation. Whilst few clinicians would accept a seasonal basis for reproduction in the human, older epidemiological data, and data more recently derived from conditions of borderline fertility, both support a seasonal change. The exact link to melatonin is as yet unestablished, but seasonal changes in plasma melatonin have been described (Matthews, 1981; Wurtman, 1979).
The wavelength and intensity of light which influences pineal melatonin biosynthesis is not known for humans, but there must be some deep organic reason for our association with red light, which has been the whore's colour since the time of Babylon and is the colour worn by married women in India. Animals kept in red light show increased gonadal development, whereas those kept in green light don't. Light and the colour of light may have a pronounced effect upon sexuality, possibly through some impact upon the pineal? And why is the red light used in the Ganzfeld, which appears to be a method for inducing the hypnagogic state (drowsiness) and is psi-conducive (Gaer-Luce, 1973)?
There is a possible fall in plasma melatonin associated with advancing human male pubertal development (Matthews, 1981)—-just as there is a fall in psi scores!
It has been shown that the foetus can synthesize and store melatonin. Reppert et al. (1988) believe that melatonin from the mother crosses the placenta and drives foetal rhythms, since the biological clock works rhythmically even before the optic nerves are fully developed. During pregnancy the diurnal rise in plasma melatonin appears enhanced as pregnancy progresses, supporting the idea for a role in maternal pineal in entraining foetal rhythms. Melatonin levels are exceptionally high at birth (Matthews, 1981). Similarly the concentrations of beta-carbolines seem to decrease with age, and 6-MeOTHBC fed to young male rats inhibited the development of genital organs. In female rats in high doses it made the dioestrus longer or totally abolished the oestrus. In smaller doses the weight of ovaries, uterus and the pituitary decreased (Airaksinen & Kari, 1981b).
Prolactin secretion is controlled by the pineal gland, and also by ovarian steroids, the prolactin secretion being modified by fluctuating oestradiol levels.
GEOMAGNETISM AND THE PINEAL
Just recently there has been considerable interest in the effect of the earth's magnetic field on living organisms, particularly as a direction finder. This interest seems to be spreading into much more esoteric fields, parapsychology being one of them. Recent research in California (Adams, 1985; Persinger, 1986) has suggested:
(a) that remote-viewing experiments are more successful when the geomagnetic field is relatively quiet; and
Tart (1988) did two psi studies which he analysed for possible correlation with geomagnetic effects. Again, as with Adams (1985) lower values of GMF activity on days preceding more successful psi performance was found, though not at a statistically significant level. One of the studies showed more successful psi on days of quiet geomagnetic activity, but not the other.
Persinger & Schaut (1988) found that telepathic experiences occurred on days when geomagnetic activity was less than when precognitive or postmortem psi occurred, and lower than average monthly or annual geomagnetic activity.
Dowsers rod movements also seem to be linked with changes in the intensity of the earth's magnetic field (Williamson, 1987). Research into UFO's, ley lines and ancient stone circles suggests that these also appear to be connected with geomagnetic anomaly (Devereux, 1982).
Barr et al. (1983) report that: 'Pineal and autonomie cells respond to weak magnetic fields, with the former responding to a weak (earth strength) magnetic field by a significant change in electrical activity.' Then in 1984 the following was published (Cremer-Bartels et al., 1984): 'The general biological role ofmelatonin may be interpreted as translator of environmental conditions . . . The earth's magnetic field (EMF) also undergoes diurnal and seasonal variations . . . Wever (1986) showed that shielding the EMF desynchronised circadian rhythms significantly even when light perception was not excluded . . . Welker et al. (1983) found that artificial magnetic fields in the strength of the EMF affected the melatonin biosynthesis in rat pineals at night . . . Cremer-Bartels et al. (1983) found that in quails an artificial magnetic field affects melatonin biosynthesis of the pineal and the retina is affected. They found a significant decrease in HIOMT activity in dead chicken retinas in response to a decreased magnetic field. With living quail and dead chicks they found a significant decrease in HIOMT activity with INCREASED magnetic field. NAT increases concomitantly with exposure to increased EMF, and decreases with decreased EMF. Therefore, NAT alone is important for synchronising the pineal with the EMF'.
They conclude: 'The determinations of the enzymes involved in the melatonin biosynthesis clearly revealed that 50 per cent increased or decreased EMF affects the melatonin biosynthesis in birds in vitro and in vivo . . . the natural EMF variations may be suggested to be the Zeitgeber of diurnal oscillations of NAT in the pineal gland and retina.'
When an animal is kept in constant darkness it is found that its circadian rhythm carries on, but on a 25-hour rhythm. Since the moon circles the earth once every 25 hours, and the moon affects the earth's geomagnetic variation, it is to be presumed that this is the mechanism which governs our circadian rhythm. Human night vision responds also to a 50 per cent decreased EMF, so it is possible that melatonin is synthesized in the eye itself. NAT and HIOMT are both pineal enzymes involved in the production of melatonin.
CONCLUSIONIt appears that recent findings in neurochemistry concerning the pineal gland could possibly give us a clue as to the chemical mechanism underlying the state of consciousness that is commonly considered to be psi-conducive. This neurochemistry also links in with other findings in parapsychology in a most intriguing way. One advantage of these speculations is that they are all eminently testable and I can see my life fully filled from now on with an ever-increasing number of different possible experiments testing ever more implications of these ideas!
Psi Research Centre
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I would like to thank and acknowledge the help and inspiration of David Pate who first introduced me to the subject; and to Elizabeth Whitehouse, J. Callaway, Thomas Metzinger and Gunther Vogl for additional help with the neurochemistry.
 Certain aspects of this paper have been presented at the 8th Int. Conf. of the Society for Psychical Research, St. Edmunds Hall, Oxford, Sept. 1984; at the 28th Parapsychological Association Conf., Tufts University, Massachusetts, Aug. 1985; and at the Society for Psychical Research Study Days no. 10, Oct. 1985, and no. 13, April 1987.
Scientific Research Papers' Moderator: Nikolaos Koumartzis