Participate In Research

Participate In Research


The faculty and staff of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia have been conducting research for many years on a variety of unusual experiences.  We hope to learn more about such experiences, including the characteristics of people who have them and the circumstances in which they have these unusual, extra-ordinary experiences. 

Ed Kelly in the EEG cap

EEG Imaging Lab 

Experimental Research of Psi Effects and Altered States of Consciousness

The Division of Perceptual Studies has established a state-of-the-art EEG research facility under the direction of Dr. Edward Kelly (psychologist & neuroscientist), and Dr. Ross Dunseath (electrical engineer). The facility includes an electromagnetically and acoustically shielded chamber, a high-quality commercial EEG data-acquisition system, and extensive software resources for analysis and modeling of multichannel physiological data. These new resources will enable us to resume, at higher intensity, a multifaceted program of research on ASCs and psi that was originally conceived and partially implemented through the Department of Electrical Engineering at Duke. The general background of this program is spelled out fully in the book Irreducible Mind (2007), of which Dr. Ed Kelly was lead author. Our ongoing research will emphasize intensive studies of individuals carefully selected for possession of various extra-ordinary psychological skills, including in particular advanced meditators, voluntary OBEers, trance mediums, and gifted psi subjects.

Please read the following descriptions to further clarify the depth and breadth of skill levels we are seeking in the subjects we would like be included in the Functional Neuro-imaging Studies of Psi Processes.

  1. Advanced Meditators

Currently available evidence strongly suggests that deep meditative states are both physiologically distinctive and conducive to unusually strong performance on various kinds of psi tasks (see Kelly & Kelly et al., 2007, Chapter 8; Kelly & Locke, 1981a). Although a number of research groups are now studying the physiology of advanced meditators, and a few are studying their capacity for controlled psi performance, to our knowledge our laboratory is unique in attempting to pursue both of these threads experimentally in the same individuals.

2. OBE Subjects

The literature of psychical research contains at least 25 cases of persons who voluntarily “projected” to a pre-determined remote location, observed persons, objects and events in that location as if from a specific spatial position, and were in turn witnessed at that location, in the form of a recognizable apparition occupying the corresponding spatial position, by one or more persons present there (Hart & collaborators, 1956)). It is of great practical and theoretical importance to study cases of this sort in depth, both to characterize the OBE states themselves physiologically and phenomenologically in greater detail and to document more rigorously the occurrence of psi-type events using appropriate target and detector systems. The small amount of work previously carried out along these lines strongly suggests that such research will be successful (see Kelly & Kelly et al., 2007, Chapter 6), and the most urgent requirement by far is again to find suitable individuals.

3. Trance Mediums

Some of the best evidence ever produced for psi phenomena generally, and for post-mortem survival in particular, came through a small number of intensively studied deep-trance mediums of the late 19th and early-to-mid-20th centuries, persons such as Mrs. Piper, Mrs. Leonard, “Mrs. Willett” (Mrs. Coombe-Tennant), and Eileen Garrett. In all cases the flow of psi information was strongly coupled to the presence of drastically altered states of consciousness, of generally similar type, about which practically nothing is presently known but which are certainly accessible to deeper investigation using modern psycho-physiological research techniques. Deep-trance mediumship has largely been supplanted in the modern era by highly publicized forms of conscious or light-trance “channeling”, procedures which to our knowledge have produced little in the way of evidence or understanding. The remedy for this, we believe, will be to discover, and to study in depth, new deep-trance mediums. Based in part on the enormous anthropological literature dealing with trance and possession trance in preliterate societies (Kelly and Locke, 1981/2008; Locke and Kelly, 1985), we feel confident that such persons still exist, and that they share some sort of biologically-based susceptibility to trance that should be accessible to study under both laboratory and field conditions.

4. Subjects Who Are Easily Hypnotized 

The early history of psychical research was deeply intertwined with that of hypnotism, so much so that for a long time “higher” (psi) phenomena such as transposition of senses, community of sensation, clairvoyance, and so on were themselves regarded as defining attributes of deep hypnotic states. The time is now auspicious to revisit these connections. In the first place, even studies with relatively unselected subjects have continued to demonstrate an association between psi performance and hypnosis (Schecter, 1984; Stanford & Stein, 1994). Meanwhile, contrary to the views of modern social-influence theorists such as Barber, Sarbin, and Spanos, recent neuroimaging and phenomenological studies have begun to confirm the traditional view that hypnosis does sometimes involve profoundly altered states of consciousness (Cardeña, 2005; Kihlstrom, 2003). At the same time, we now know that the capacity to enter into such drastically altered hypnotic states is rare in the general population – perhaps on the order of 1% or fewer of randomly sampled adults. These are precisely the kinds of persons who need to be studied in depth, and we have begun to search for them using standard hypnotic-susceptibility instruments. The central goals of our work with such individuals will be to study the phenomenology and physiology of the hypnotic states themselves, and to explore their association with psi using appropriate testing methods. Whereas most laboratory studies of hypnosis to date have concentrated on traditional forced-choice card-guessing and the like, we believe it will prove far more effective to employ testing methods that take advantage of properties intrinsic to the targeted states.

5. Psi Subjects

In addition to studies of the above sorts, in which the initial focus is on psycho-physiological analysis of unusual states of consciousness, and psi testing plays mostly a secondary or confirmatory role, we will also constantly be on the lookout for persons capable of high-level performance on controlled psi tasks (ESP and PK tasks) of various kinds. In any such persons we discover, the central goal of our collaborative research will be not merely to document the psi performance, but to identify physiological conditions conducive to success. Identification of such correlates is highly desirable scientifically, and for a number of important reasons: For example, in correlating psi effects with measurable subject properties of any other kind we already “normalize” the paranormal to some degree, and in the context of present-day science anchoring psi to biological correlates is a top strategic priority. Such correlations can also immediately provide a degree of statistical control over psi itself, because one could then go through a long series of trials picking out those in which physiological conditions conducive to success are present, with the expectation that the trials thus selected will display a higher success rate than the series as a whole. Furthermore, if the physiological conditions conducive to success prove to be of a sort that we can stabilize or induce, for example using biofeedback or meditation procedures, the path could lie open to experimental control and to correspondingly increased potential for practical applications. Other potential benefits include tracing flows of psi-related information through individual brains, resolution of sometimes vexing ambiguities as to the source of psi effects (most notoriously, as between those participants nominally identified as “subjects” and “experimenters”), and discriminating among rival theoretical models of psi.


Cardeña, E. (2005). The phenomenology of deep hypnosis: Quiescent and physically active. Journal of  Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 53, 37-59.

Hart, H. & collaborators (1956). Six theories about apparitions. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 50, 153-239.

Kelly, E. F., Kelly, E. W., Crabtree, A., Gauld, A., Grosso, M., & Greyson, B. (2007) Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Kelly, E. F. and Locke, R. G. (1981a). Altered States of Consciousness and Psi: An Historical Survey and Research Prospectus (Parapsychological  Monographs No. 18), New York: Parapsychology Foundation (re-issued, with a new preface, 2008).

Kelly, E. F. and Locke, R. G. (1981b). A note on scrying. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 75, 221-227.

Kelly, E. F. (1983). A psychobiological framework for psi research: sources, progress, and prospects. Proceedings: Symposium on Applications of Anomalous Phenomena, Leesburg VA: Kaman Tempo, 365-405 (available in slightly modified form as a .pdf, 2008).

Kihlstrom, J. (2003). The fox, the hedgehog, and hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 51, 166-189.

Locke, R. G. and Kelly, E. F. (1985). A preliminary model for the cross-cultural analysis of altered states of consciousness. Ethos, 18, 3-55.

Schechter, E. I. (1984). Hypnotic induction vs. control conditions: Illustrating an approach to the evaluation of replicability in parapsychological data. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 78, 1-27.

Stanford, R. G., & Stein, A. G. (1994). A meta-analysis of ESP studies contrasting hypnosis and a comparison condition. Journal of Parapsychology, 58, 235-269.


If you have had any or all of the experiences described above, please contact us by clicking here . When you are emailing us, please be sure to include a brief description of your experiences.

Experiments being conducted in our EEG lab

IRB-HSR # 14311  

1) Functional Neuro-imaging Studies of Psi Processes

We currently need volunteers for our investigation of Functional Neuro-imaging Studies of Psi processes. We are looking for healthy volunteers 18 and older for a study of physiological correlates of success in controlled Psi (ESP/Psycho-kinesis) tasks.

You may qualify if you:

  • Are at least 18
  • Have a history of unusual experiences as defined by the "Unusual Experiences Inventory" (this is introduced as part of the screening process)
  • Have a history of success in Psi Process experiments
  • Are not currently pregnant


For more information about the types of expert psi subjects we are seeking, please see the descriptions 1-5 of the at the top of this page.

If you are able to perform consistently at above-chance levels in any of the controlled psi tasks we have implemented in our laboratory we will invite you to participate in the more critical neuroimaging phase of our experiments. In these, we will use electroencephalography (EEG) and/or functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) techniques in an attempt to find out exactly what is occurring in the brain as the subject is experiencing unusual success within a given Psi task.
Each imaging session will take approximately two hours or less including setup and practice time. We will run at least two sessions with each selected protocol. You will be able to discontinue participation at any time, or to elect to continue as you wish by mutual agreement with the investigators.

Compensation:  Should the subject need to travel to our lab setting here in Charlottesville, VA compensation will be provided in the form of travel and per diem expenses, otherwise there is no compensation.

Contact Information:
For more information please contact:
Lori L. Derr M.Ed., Study Coordinator
IRB-HSR # 14311
Principal Investigator:  Edward F. Kelly, Ph.D.


Study of Spontaneous Unusual and Extra-ordinary Experiences

 In this study, we hope to learn about more about unusual and extra-ordinary experiences, including the characteristics of people who have them and the circumstances in which they have them.

We have developed a series of questionnaires for investigation into unusual experiences, including some personality questionnaires. There are several questionnaires and you may complete them at your leisure and email them back to us or send them via the US mail system.  If you have any questions about this study, please contact:

Emily Williams Kelly, Ph.D.

The Department of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences

Division of Perceptual Studies

P. O. Box 800152 University of Virginia Health System

Charlottesville, VA 22908-0152


To participate in this study please click here, enter your first name into the subject field of your e-mail message and tell us a little about yourself.  If you have experienced something unusual, please provide us with a brief summary of your experience(s). If you simply want to report an experience of the type we investigate without becoming involved in the study described above then please click here.

(Please note, we are collecting cases for the purposes of research only.  We cannot provide therapeutic or counseling services via email, telephone, or correspondence to individuals who are made anxious by unusual experiences.)