Brain Changes During a Shamanic Trance

Brain changes during a shamanic trance: Altered modes ofconsciousness, hemispheric laterality, and systemic psychobiology

by Pierre Flor-Henry, Yakov Shapiro and Corine Sombrun
In Cogent Psychology (2017), 4: 1313522

The subject of the study reported here is Corine Sombrun, the first Western woman to be trained in the Mongolian shamanic tradition. She shared her experiences, plus tips for accessing, using and exploring trance states, at SAND 2016. The study reports her collaboration with Pierre Flor-Henry, expert in spectral EEG imaging, and Yakov Shapiro, who teaches neuroscience and the psychobiology of self-experience. It is the first neurophysiological study of a normal subject who can induce a trance state at will. Through analysis of a series of EEG recordings of Corine and comparison subjects, the authors conclude that shamanic trance is not a psychopathological condition, and conscious experience in ordinary and altered states cannot be understood in isolation from the larger social and cultural contexts. Perhaps more significantly for the academic readership of Cogent Psychology, they note the recent shift in Western schools of psychotherapy from largely verbal to more experiential, nonlinear approaches, and suggest that these may help us bridge traditional and Western concepts of psychopathology and open psychiatry to subjective and intersubjective, as well as objective, science.

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