A group of researchers led by the University of Tokyo and Caltech confirmed that humans may have the ability to sense Earth’s magnetic field. Scientists have already known that some animals already have this ability which allows them to sense the magnetic field.
Animals that can sense Earth’s magnetic field include birds, bees, whales, bats and other animals, but now, humans can be grouped into the category of possessing magnetoreception. A new study details changes in brain wave activity when exposed to changes in the magnetic field when studied in isolated environments.
There is previous research which tried to answer this question, but none of those studies yielded conclusive results. The new study uses a different approach and found that humans can sense Earth’s magnetic field on a subconscious level. The study focused on 34 participants who entered isolated radio frequency-protected rooms and tests were conducted in complete silence and darkness.
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Researchers placed electrodes on the heads of the participants and monitored their brain waves, similar to EEG testing. Participants would spend an hour in the chambers while researchers moved the magnetic field around the chamber while measuring the changes in the brain waves. The Caltech researchers paid attention to the alpha brain waves which range between 8Hz and 13Hz.
Scientists explained that when people are unengaged mentally, the state of alpha waves is high, but will begin to decline when something catches their attention, consciously or unconsciously. The scientists found that whenever they increased the magnetic field or began its stimulation they found this change in the alpha state of the human brain, indicating that humans could be able to sense Earth’s magnetic field.
“Alpha-ERD is a strong neural signature of sensory detection and the resulting attention shift. The fact that we see it in response to simple magnetic rotations like we experience when turning or shaking our head is powerful evidence for human magnetoreception. The large individual differences we found are also intriguing with regard to human evolution and the influences of modern life,” Shin Shimojo neuroscientist and one of the authors of the study said in a statement. “As for the next step, we ought to try bringing this into conscious awareness.”
Scientists are not sure that the human brain can also process magnetic field changes on an active level. Also, more research is necessary before researchers will be able to determine whether everyone can sense the magnetic field, as well as, how it affects us.
“Our results rule out electrical induction and the ‘quantum compass’ hypotheses for the magnetic sense,” Joseph Kirschvink geo scientist and author of the study said in the statement.