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How Your Body Predicts the Future

By Lee Rannals / Source: Red Orbit

Do you ever feel like you just have a really good feeling about something happening? Well, according to a new study, you actually may be predicting the future.

Scientists wrote in the current edition of Frontiers in Perception Science that our bodies are able to anticipate the near future.

The team already knew that our subconscious minds know more than our conscious minds, and physiological measures of subconscious arousal show up before conscious awareness. However, there were still some unanswered questions.

The Northwestern University researchers analyzed the results of 26 studies published between 1978 and 2010 to look into whether humans have the ability to predict future important events without any clues as to what might happen, said Julia Mossbridge, lead author of the study and research associate in the Visual Perception, Cognition and Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern.

Her example is that a person playing a video game at work while wearing headphones can't hear when his or her boss is coming, but they may be able to anticipate it.

"But our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand and close your video game," Mossbridge. "You might even have a chance to open that spreadsheet you were supposed to be working on. And if you were lucky, you could do all this before your boss entered the room."

She said this phenomenon is called "presentiment," as in "sensing the future." However, despite what the name suggests, she and other researchers say they are not sure people are really sensing the future.

"I like to call the phenomenon 'anomalous anticipatory activity,'" she said. "The phenomenon is anomalous, some scientists argue, because we can't explain it using present-day understanding about how biology works; though explanations related to recent quantum biological findings could potentially make sense."

She said it is anticipatory because it seems to predict future physiological changes in response to an important event without any known clues. Also, it is an activity because it consists of changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin and nervous systems.

Test subjects during the studies exhibited significant changes in cardio and brain waves, as well as electrical measurements in their skin, 10 seconds prior to experiencing randomly chosen stimuli. This suggests that the subjects somehow anticipated they were about to see something that would provoke a sensory response.

Mossbridge's analysis of the data puts the odds of her findings being the result of chance or coincidence at 400 billion to one.

"If this seemingly anomalous anticipatory activity is real, it should be possible to replicate it in multiple independent laboratories," she and her co-authors write. "The cause of this anticipatory activity, which undoubtedly lies within the realm of natural physical processes (as opposed to supernatural or paranormal ones), remains to be determined."

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