Updated: Nov 8, 2020
St. Xavier's College (Autonomous), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
For many years, there have been some mystifying questions that have been haunting mankind. Many scientists are still pondering upon the nerve-wracking question: “Do ghosts and such entities exist or are they just a few neurological changes in the brain?” Well, there have been diverse studies that have a variety of conclusions. The term paranormal includes a large spectrum of phenomena like Austral projection, telepathy, cryptozoology, clairvoyance, and so on. However, it is primarily used to describe entities like ghouls and ghosts.
Are Ghosts in the mind?
The question is really interesting: whether or not the realm of paranormal exists. Let’s have a look at what changes occur inside the brain causing these phenomena-
(a) Insomnia and waking dream- The hypnogogic state of consciousness where the mind is awake while the body is asleep can be related to sleep paralysis which is called a waking dream. People feel the presence of ghosts in such conditions as their state of consciousness is altered and it leads to the superimposition of a mental image on the actual visual scene. This is also the explanation that can lead us to believe insomnia can be the reason to feel paranormal activity, as the brain is sleep-deprived and tired.
(b) Phasmophobia-According to the American Paranormal Research Association (APRA), the fear of ghosts or ghosts-like entities is referred to as Phasmophobia. This leads to shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, panic attack, and the overall feeling of dreadness. One of the most probable reasons for people to think that they have encountered sinister entities is Phasmophobia. Some people with a genetic predisposition of anxiety are more vulnerable to develop a phobia.
(c) Deprivation of Oxygen- Cerebral anoxia or lack of oxygen flowing through the brain can trigger hallucinations and sensory distortions. Cerebral anoxia explains numerous near-death experiences. Alvis, the author of Haunted Discoveries, explains how abandoned buildings, home to large amounts of molds, and other hazardous substances can prompt cerebral anoxia and steer people to believe that they have felt the presence of supernatural entities.
(d) Carbon Monoxide poisoning-Since the 1920s, carbon monoxide poisoning is held responsible for various sorts of hallucinations like audio, visual, feeling of strange touch on the skin, and so on. Long-term exposure to carbon monoxide affects memory, behavior, cognition, and brain functions; which drives people to believe that they sense the presence of the “Unknown”.
(e) Electromagnetic Waves- The temporal lobe activity is affected by high electromagnetic fields and bad wiring, which prompts a person to experience time distortions, strange sensations, and hallucinations.
Dopaminergic Gene- A study on the relationship between phenotype and genotype, in line with the dopaminergic brain theory, suggests that the dopaminergic gene (COMT) involved in prefrontal executive cognition and also in suggestibility is positively related with paranormal belief.
Analysis of the Brain-Behavioral studies suggests that paranormal ideology is based on over-reliance on the right hemisphere, which leads to the emergence of the ‘loose’ and ‘uncommon’ associations instead of semantic processes. On doing an Omega Complex Analysis, compared to a disbeliever, believers of supernatural phenomena showed more right located sources of the β2 band, hence explaining the over-reliance on the right hemisphere. Scientists at the KEY Institute for Brain-Mind Research performed an experiment using the BAG (Bridge-the-Associative-Gap) task for a large number of the student population, suggesting that semantic relations can be used to detect the difference between paranormal belief, delusional ideology, and creative thinking.
Religious Theories-Various cognitive theories of religion (mostly Christianity) postulated numerous cognitive biases that incline human minds towards mentalizing, which prompts teleology and dualism which in turn ushers paranormal and religious beliefs. These theories suggest different robust patterns for both women and men.
Negative Energy-What about it?
Parapsychologists suggest that there are three different kinds of energy-positive, neutral and negative. Negative energy reduces the ability to think and is directly proportional to the feeling of fear and intolerance. A survey suggests that the human brain reacts distinctly in places filled with different types of energy; for example, if someone is left in some gloomy place, his brain activity rapidly increases due to fear and this leads to stroke. Parapsychologists believe that “FEAR” is the lone thing that can make a person weak enough to be affected by negative energy (spirits), which ultimately leads to possession.
Quoting the Noble-Prize winning physicist Brian Josephson-‘Quantum Entanglement would be one manifestation of an organized complex organization, paranormal phenomena another.” There are experiments devised by different physicists to investigate paranormal activities by the use of devices like ultrasonic radars, polaroid cameras, and so on. However, in the theatre of physics, scientists accept the continuum of space-time while Ted Bastin’s started the proposition that paranormal phenomena show no dependence on space and time. Hence, paranormal phenomena should be defined as ‘Contradicting Physics’.
There is yet so much to explore. With time and advancement of science the mystifying question –“Whether the Dark forces exist or it is just a trick of our brain”, hopefully, will be answered.
 Mani Tumula, Kota Rajasekhar, SSRG International Journal of Applied Physics, Volume 7, Issue 2, Existence of ghosts and paranormal entities Godden Maryse,2017, Its Ghoul In the mind, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4051536/reasons-why-people-see-ghosts-paranormal-activity-experts/
 All about Phasmophobia and fear of ghosts, https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/phasmophobia#symptoms
 Raz Amir, Hines Terence, Fosella John and Castro Daniella, Science Direct, Paranormal Experience, and the COMT dopaminergic gene
R. R. Gianotti Lorena, Mohr Christine, Pizzagalli Diego, Lehmann Dietrich, Brugger Peter, Psychiatry and Clinical neuroscience(2000), Brain electric correlates of a strong belief in paranormal phenomena.  R. R. Gianotti Lorena, Mohr Christine, Pizzagalli Diego, Lehmann Dietrich, Brugger Peter, Psychiatry and Clinical neuroscience, Associative Processing and paranormal belief.  Aiyana K. Willard, Ara Norenzayan, Science Direct, Cognitive Biases explain religious belief, paranormal belief, and belief in life’s purpose.  Mani Tumula, Kota Rajasekhar, SSRG International Journal of Applied Physics, Volume 7, Issue 2, Existence of ghosts and paranormal entities.  Pioneer of Paranormal, https://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10/mm/articles/PWprofile.html
Noyes H. Pierre, 1999, Sciences and Paranormal Phenomena