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Space Zen: Will Humans' Brains Change During Travel in Outer Space? -A Galaxy Insight

903220_big_2 In February, 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell experienced the little understood phenomenon sometimes called the “Overview Effect”. He describes being completely engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness. Without warning, he says, a feeing of bliss, timelessness, and connectedness began to overwhelm him. He describes becoming instantly and profoundly aware that each of his constituent atoms were connected to the fragile planet he saw in the window and to every other atom in the Universe. He described experiencing an intense awareness that Earth, with its humans, other animal species, and systems were all one synergistic whole. He says the feeling that rushed over him was a sense of interconnected euphoria. He was not the first—nor the last—to experience this strange “cosmic connection”.

Rusty Schweikart experienced it on March 6th 1969 during a spacewalk outside his Apollo 9 vehicle: “When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing. That makes a change…it comes through to you so powerfully that you’re the sensing element for Man.” Schweikart, similar to what Mitchell experienced, describes intuitively sensing that everything is profoundly connected.

Their experiences, along with dozens of other similar experiences described by other astronauts, intrigue scientists who study the brain. This “Overview Effect”, or acute awareness of all matter as synergistically connected, sounds somewhat similar to certain religious experiences described by Buddhist monks, for example. Where does it come from and why?

Andy Newberg, a neuroscientist/physician with a background in spacemedicine, is learning how to identify the markers of someone who hasexperienced space travel. He says there is a palpable difference in someone who has been in space, and he wants to know why. Newberg
specializes in finding the neurological markers of brains in states of altered consciousness: Praying nuns, transcendental mediators, and others in focused or "transcendent" states.

Newberg can actually pinpoint regions in subjects' gray matter that correlate to these circumstances, and now he plans to use his expertise to find how and why the Overview Effect occurs. He is setting up advanced neurological scanning instruments that can head into space to study--live--the brain functions of space travelers. If this Overview Effect is a real, physiological phenomenon—he wants to watch it unfold.

Newberg's first test subject will not be an astronaut, but rather a civilian. Reda Andersen will be leaving the planet with Rocketplane Kistler. She says, that as one of the world's first civilian space adventurers, she is more than happy to let Andy scan her brain if it can help unlock the mystery. Why do astronauts all seem to experience a profound alteration of their perceptions when entering space, and will it happen for Rita and the other civilian explorers as well?

After decades of study and contemplation about his experience, Ed Mitchell believes that the feeling of “oneness” with the Universe that he and others have experienced is a consequence of little understood quantum physics.

In a recent interview with writer Diana deRegnier of American Chronicle, Mitchell explains how the event changed his life and his entire perspective on the world and how each of us fits into the grand scale of the cosmos.

“Four hundred years ago. the philosopher Rene Descartes came to the conclusion that physicality, spirituality, mind and body belonged to different realms of reality that didn't interact. Now, that served the purpose to get the Inquisition off the backs of the intellectuals so they could disagree on material things with the church and without the fear of being burned at the stake. So that ended that, but it did cause, for four hundred years, science to consider consciousness and mind a subject for philosophy and religion and not a subject for science.

Now, one of the things that happened, in the 1940s, was the mathematician, physicist, Norbert Wiener (MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for the first time really defined information as the negative of entropy, and entropy as the idea of the universe is running down and wastes energy. But, Wiener defined information as the negative of entropy, and that's wonderful but it didn't go far enough.”

Mitchell says that in an attempt to fill in some of the missing gap, the 2008 revised edition of his book The Way of the Explorer explores the largely ignored science of human consciousness. Using what he calls the “dyadic model” he outlines the “two faces” of energy. “Instead of being two separate things, it's the energy as the basis of our existence in matter. And, it’s the basis of our knowing and information,” Mitchell explains.

“We had not had, in science, a definition of consciousness. The only definition of consciousness from the dictionary is that at its basic level it is awareness. Consciousness means to be aware, and then we have different levels of consciousness depending upon how complex the substance is. It has been demonstrated many times over in laboratories that basic awareness is demonstrable at the level of plants, at simple bacteria, at simple life forms.

This is done with Faraday cages. It's shown that this information at this deep level, at the quantum level, can transcend electromagnetic theory. And, now we're getting into quantum physics and we don´t want to go there at this point. But it's a very fundamental notion that awareness is at the very basis of things.”

Mitchell believes that perhaps both the theologians and scientists have missed the mark.

“All I can suggest to the mystic and the theologian is that our gods have been too small; they fill the universe. And to the scientist all I can say is that the gods do exist; they are the eternal, connected, and aware Self experienced by all intelligent beings.'

In response to DeRegnier questioning whether or not Mitchell believes in the idea of God, he responds that while he does not believe in the traditional “grandfather figure” version of God, “we do have great mystery about what is the origin of the universe, how it came to be. There's a great deal of question as to whether the big bang is the correct answer to the way the universe arose, and under what auspices and conditions. I don't think we have the full answers to that yet. Hopefully in due course we'll be able to find a much better way to describe all this.”

But while Mitchell does not claim to know how to perfectly interpret his experience, he is certain that it was a glimpse into a largely ignored reality: People, places and things are all more closely connected than they sometimes appear. He also mentions the need for better stewardship of our precious planet.

“The great thinker Buckminster Fuller, philosopher, now deceased but for a goodly portion of the twentieth century, pointed out at the beginning of our space exploration that we are the crew of ‘space ship earth’. But we 're a crew of mutiny and how can you run a space ship with a mutinous crew?”

Posted by Rebecca Sato

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Full Interview Link:


This phenomenon might be linked to our drive to explore in the 1st place.

Potentially hostile, barren environments ( like the desert ) also produce some of the same feelings, I believe.

Seems logical that any extended time in space would create some type of change both mentally and physically.


I receive this same feeling sometimes when I smoke marijuana--just saying.

Now, to smoke cannabis in space. There's a perspective-jarring experience.

Isn't this the picture form Linkin Parks' 'Leave Out All The Rest'? with Chester standing in front of the sun? Just asking...

This picture that you are using in your article is from Linkin Park's "Leave out all the rest". Are you aware of this?

Interesting. I had very similar experiences several times when i was about 5-6 years old. All of a sudden, you felt like you can "think/see" everything in the world, and it made you very happy and you wanted to hug the entire universe.
Hasn't happened to me since that age, im 30 now.. But i vividly remember those experiences, and if i were religious, i would say it was some sort of revelation/divine connection.

Tantric holism is new?

Interesting, at any rate.. Will be very curious where this research leads.

no, the picture is from the movie Sunshine ! hah

Yup, pot and shrooms produce the same effect.

Hah, this is very interesting. But I'm appalled as to why they're getting into "the mystic and the theologian" as Mitchell put it. And you're thirty now, correct? Then how would you recall these events if it was about 25-24 years ago? At any rate this is quite interesting.

It's Linkin Park trust me, but enough about the picture, the article is fairly interesting.

Not to spoil the party, but had exactly
same state of mind when my sugar got very
low (diabetic type 1).

I had this exact experience when I was under the influence of a large amount of LSD.

This is very interesting.

I remember having a similar experience during my time at high school. I was walking to school and the effect only lasted a split second. I saw the world and everything outside of the Earth as connected, time did not exist and things just "were". Still gives me goosebumps when I think about it :)

I felt this while also experiencing profound grief - agony and ecstasy, interconnectedness, awareness. No drugs.

Hmmm this is interesting... There may also be a correlation to that of a kind of 'escalation of perception' by comparing the brain activity areas of someone who's flown in a plane, viewing the earth and fundamentally changing perceptions of the world and someone who hasn't.. There is a clear difference when you actually talk with someone who doesn't or has never flown..
It could also be influencedstructurally by the lack of gravity and the change in the interconnection patterns which normally occur in a 1 gravity environment..

Travelling in outher space has trough all time changed the human brain.

Firstly: We already and really ARE travelling in "outher space" every day on the Earth. (OK, this fact does seemingly not change the modern human being a lot)

Secondly: Our ancestors travelled frequently in space via out-of-body-journeys, and I´m sure these journeys affected the human way of viewing everything - and doing this in a very holistic way of understanding Cosmos.

Natural Philosopher Ivar Nielsen -

I have had the same feeling happen on earth, and not under the influence of drugs. I had this feeling before and during a volleyball game, where I played the best game I have ever done.

This article started off decent enough but took a hard right into New Age dribble with the philosophy of Edgar Mitchell. He's no scientist, just a space pilot yet the author decides to publish his ramblings. How about he waits for some decent results from an actual scientific study before he starts pulling theories about "quantum gods" out of thin air. "Overview Effect" sounds very fascinating, but nothing Mitchell said was interesting except when he was describing the shared "overview effect".

Did Daily Galaxy have a minimum word count for this article?

The overview effect is in essence not a neurological mishap or strange occurance- just think about it- truly imagine the magnanimity of floating above Earth or walking on another planet thousands of miles from the only rock we've ever known- the only place we've grown up on, experienced, learned about, wondered at...and now, you can see all that at a distance so far away (say if your on the moon's surface) that you could hold your hand up and optically "have the whole world in your hand"
Its euphoria-if you want a neurological reason-ENDORPHINS! And Mitchell makes the main point: Consciousness- its our knowing..." We all do it- we get sucked into the mendane routine of life that when you finally stop and take a look around, a bit of a feeling of wonder and awe overcomes you when you fathom the beauties in our everday world that we usually ignore due to our "more important things". In space, there isnt much distraction from the beauty, therefore the amazing experience is fully embraced- call it Overview Effect- try to pinpoint where and what's going on in the brain if you want- but it comes down to basic amazement, of which is magnified when you understand the history of our universe and our world and how we came to be- which astronauts obviously have all learned and understand.
Also, I would be surprised if Reda Andersen experiences Overview Effect on a plane ride that just takes you above the atomosphere- NOT out of this planet- rocketplane kistler will just bring her high enough to experience free fall aka "weightlessness" but she wont be leaving this planet, she'll see the curvature of the Earth in line with her- I doubt she'll be up there long enough to feel the Effect. Also, it depends on how much she knows about the universe and its history- it makes for a complete understanding when you can grasp and understand the whole picture (or what we know about it today) and how it all came to be. Well, to a degree. So long as she truly appreciates the beauty and understands how little we all are, how blessed we are, and how what we do on Earth can have tremendous effects to/on the planet, while barely leaving a smudge on the universe as a whole.

Sometimes it happens when you realize that you're looking at something that you can never really " conquer " or own or label.

The sense of wonder we possessed as children gets rebooted, perhaps.....

Two points:

- Listen, guys, that picture is from the movie Sunshine. I'm telling you ... it is.

- I don't know if this volunteer is going to experience it or not--it'll be interesting to see if she does. I wonder if you need to be in space for a while to experience it or if the Overview Effect can occur in suborbital flight.

I would worry less about the effects on the mind, and more on the effect on the body as a whole. I think living in space might really take its toll.

My theory is that it has something to do with the pineal gland, endogenous DMT, and a very unique setting.

Seeing the earth from that vantage or the sensation of floating in space could be very intense and cross the security threshold on your pineal gland. This will cause the pineal gland to dose yourself with a pure form of DMT "dimethyltryptamine" which will give a very vivid concept of oneness and universal truth.

Honestly i had an experience that hit so close to home i kinda had to take a double look to make sure i was readin it right. I just dubbed it a moment of clarity where it felt like i was above all the worlds small problems and saw what life was really intended to be. Now given i did take a shroom, but just because it was a so called drug or hallucinagen doesn't mean it should be shrugged off because to our understanding it could just be a simple a drug or w/e, but in reality it could be a way of freeing/opening your mind from the rules and restricitons you have been born to believe. Just a thought i had about the subject i wanted to share, nothing more,nothing less.

But i will say that moment i had put everything in life into a perspective that was clear to me.

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