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Parapsychological J. of South Africa. 1981; 2 (2): 56-64.

'PSI-GENETICS': AN ORGANIC PERSPECTIVE

Hurst and Neppe reply

We were stimulated by the response of Dr. C.T.K. Chari to our two articles in this journal.2~3 In particular, we were interested in Chari's intensive pedigree analyses, which did not disclose any familial factor. As predicted by Chari, we will be the first to concede that research into 'psi-genetics' has just begun.

Although the evidence for a genetic factor in paranormal ability derived from our own two families is admittedly of a fragmentary and suggest we nature only, encouraging the initiation of extensive twin-family studies, we, nevertheless, have the following kind of model in mind, extending the argument of Aldous Huxley in his 'Doors of Perception'4 and 'Heaven and Hell's to the effect that chemical influence (by Mescaline) on the whole cerebral cortex widens our experience to realms which we call paranormal. A localized area of cerebral dysfunction (whether chemical, epileptic or due to a space occupying lesion) could conceivably let in this wider reality also. This is in keeping with Ehrenwald's concept of flaw-determined psi responses. Because of the 'flaw', penetration through the 'Bergsonian filter' can occur.7 This hypothetical filter normally prevents psi information from entering awareness. The genetic mechanism may parallel cryptogenic epilepsy in which the work and analyses of Metrakos favours an autosomal dominant genetic mechanism with special penetrance features.8 However, anomalous temporal lobe functioning without epilepsy is very different 9 and the postulated genetic mechanism may also be different.

Turning to Chari's communication, we start with his transcultural information concerning the content of temporal lobe experiences in India as compared with other countries. A parallel from our work is in the content of delusions and hallucinations in Black psychotics in the Johannesburg area in comparison with Whites. 10 We are grateful for this further transcultural information. However, the diagnosis of temporal lobe epilepsy ?`TLE) is sometimes difficult 11 and frequently non-TLE cases are misdiagnosed as TLE: thus, this transcultural information must be interpreted with care. This is particularly so, as certain subjective experiences - the content of which is modified by the environment - only rarely relate to TLE (e.g. deja vu) and the actual concept of TLE is not interpreted homogeneously.

We are in agreement with Chari as to the absence of a genetic factor in hysteria, as crucially argued by Eliot Slater in his definitive Maudsley Lecture.13 In this, he summarized his own twin-family data as well as those of Ljungberg.

However, Chari's carefully analysed pedigrees are in our view, amenable to the alternative of the 'no-genetic factor view' espoused by him, of a single recessive autosomal genetic mechanism. This would explain the absence of the trait in ascendants, descendants and even those in the collateral line of descent, having regard to the small size of human families.

The variability of the age of manifestation o, a genetic trait - at birth as in polydactyly or in middle age as in Huntington's Chorea - is well made by Chari. We may add to a later age of manifestation category - cryptogenic epilepsy, schizophrenia and manic depressive disorder, along an increasing age scale. This minimizes the role of psychogenic factors in inducing these states. But these, it may be correctly claimed are abnormal mental states. In the case of musical ability instanced by Chari, however, we are dealing with the upper range of a normal ability. Amram Scheinfeld supplies us with substantial pedigree evidence of familial musical genius, without his being able to specify the nature of the genetic mechanism involved.14 Chari stresses the complexity of this trait and the possible involvement of polygenes, pleiotropism and moderator genes. Moreover, it may well be that only one component, such as pitch response, is inherited.

This last hypothesis strengthens, rather than weakens, by analogy, the likelihood of a genetically determined paranormal ability. It is stressed that our original paper 3 looked at people who perceived their experiences as paranormal (i.e. 'subjective paranormal experiences' l5 (SPEs)) not at people with objectifiable paranormal experiences (i.e. ostensible paranormal experiences l6). Moreover, these SPEs were of a special kind - they co-existed in patients with temporal lobe dysfunction. The mechanism involved may not be generalizable to all subjects with SPEs (i.e. Subjective Paranormal Experiments 17) and the subjects discussed may represent a minority subgroup. It is more likely, however, that anomalous temporal lobe functioning co-exists with SPE as found by Neppe in his controlled trial in e7~t his SubjectiveParanormal Experients 18.

Let us end on the note of Chari's contention cited earlier that 'psi-genetics has just begun', and plan with him the experimental design of twin-family and other studies to answer definitively the question of the existence or otherwise of a genetic factor or genetic factors in psi-phenomena.

References:

1. Chari C.T.K. 'Some questions about psi-genetics'. PJSA. 1982, 3:1, 50-53.

2. Neppe V.M. and Hurst, L.A. 'Psi, Genetics and the Temporal Lobe'. PJSA. 1981, 2:2, 35-55.

3. Hurst, L.A. and Neppe, V.M. 'A familial study of subjective paranormal experience in temporal lobe dysfunction subjects'. PJSA. 1981, 2:2, 56-64.

4. Huxley, A. Doors of Perception. London: Chatto & Windus. 1954.

5. Huxley, A. Heaven and Hell. London: Chatto & Windus. 1954.

6. Ehrenwald, J. 'Cerebral localization and the psi syndrome'. J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 1975, 161:6, 393-398.

7. Bergson, H. Matter and Memory. London: George Allen and Unwin. 1911.

8. Metrakos, J.D. 'The Centrencephalic EEG in Epilepsy'. Proceedings of the Second Internationa1 Conference of Human Genetics. Rome.1961,1792 - 1795.

9. Neppe, V.M. 'Non-epileptic symptoms of temporal lobe epilepsy'. South Afr. Med. J. 1981, 60:26, 989-991.

10. Hurst, L.A., Hall, R.S. & Fisher, C. Syndrones of and attitudes to Mental Disorder among the Johannesburg Bantu. British Journal of Social Psychiatry. 1970, 4:2, l-10.

11. Neppe, V.M. Symptomalogy of temporal lobe epilepsy. South Afr. Med. J. 1981, 60:26, 902-907.

12. Neppe, V.M. Differing perspectives to the concept 'temporal lobe epilepsy'. The Leech. 1982, 52:1, 6-10.

13. Neppe, V.M. Is deja vu a symptom of temporal lobe epilepsy? South Afr. Med. J. 1981, 60:23, 907-908.

14. Slater, E. 'The Thirty-fifth Maudsley Lecture - Hysteria'. J. Ment. Sci. 1961, 107, 359-381.

15. Scheinfeld, A. The Human Heredity Handbook. New York: Lippincott. 1956.

16. Neppe, V.M. 'Subjective paranormal experience'. Psi. 1980, 2:3, 2-3.

17. Neppe, V.M. 'New ideas on old concepts in parapsychology'. Paper presented to the SASPR, Johannesburg. 1981.

18. Neppe, V,M. A study of deja vu experience. Ph.D (Med.) thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. 1981.

19. Neppe, V.M. 'Subjective paranormal experience and temporal lobe symptomatology'. PJSA. 1980, 1:2, 78-98.


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