About Alternative Vision

The report of N. P. Bechtereva on the topic “About Alternative Vision”,

made during the meeting with representatives of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity

Moscow 29.10.2003

N.P. Bechtereva

N.P. Bechtereva

A representative of the Russian Academy of Sciences: “Today we are going to listen to the
report of N. P. Bechtereva on the phenomenon of alternative vision. What caused this
question to be raised?

Firstly, the unusualness of the phenomenon. It caused a proper response both in the media and
in the scientific community. As it has generated a sharp controversy, the Presidium of the
Academy of Sciences considered it worthwhile to discuss this fact in this way, in public. Of
course, even here we will not decide anything. The expression that the truth originates from
dispute basically refers to the era of the development of scholastic science. Nowadays the
truth is defined not in science classrooms, but in scientific laboratories during a strict
experiment. Nevertheless, comparison of different points of view can prove to be useful.
Today we have the following agenda: at first Natalia Petrovna Behtereva will make the report,
then an expert on the method will speak as a representative of the group headed by
Bronnikov, after that we are going to see the demonstration of this phenomenon of alternative
vision, and finally Sviatoslav Vsevolodovich Medvedev will show us a film and some other
demonstrations. We suppose that this first part is going to take about an hour and we will try
not to make it too long, so that everybody will have an opportunity to express their opinion
and state their point of view. Now I welcome Natalia Petrovna.

Natalia Petrovna Behtereva: Good afternoon! I am addressing all the guests. First, I would
like to express my gratitude to academician Ginsburg and academician Kruglikov for all these
events which have taken place in my life. I am old enough, but I have never experienced such
things before, I have never hoped for, expected or planned anything like this. I just worked,
published and did research.

Taking into account the present situation, I am going to speak specifically about the Event to
which today’s conference is dedicated. I am not going to speak about things we did before and
about the reasons why those people came to us. Three and a half years ago Tatiana Koroleva,
a physicist and a journalist, came to my laboratory and brought me a film in which
schoolchildren, with eyes covered by bandages, rode bicycles, played chess, gathered toys and
various things scattered on the floor, read, and in short, communicated with each other. Of
course, in spite of the fact that she is a physicist, in spite of the fact that she is a journalist and
has no interest in misleading me, I could not believe those things at all. But I have always had
a long-standing and emotionally strong interest in how eyesight operates.
In our institute we deal with the problem of restoration of eyesight using the method of
electrical stimulation and are working out various additional approaches to this restoration.

But for me, all this was above all connected with the case of one colleague from the institute,
whose daughter a long time ago, i.e. more than 20 years ago, suffered severe injuries. A
maniac broke into their house and inflicted various wounds on her, including the terrible act
of cutting her eyes out. The girl cried and tried not to let anyone else into the flat, because she
didn’t know whether the maniac had gone or not. So when I heard that vision can be restored
this way, even if the eyes are severly damaged, I said to myself: “Why not try it?” The thing
is, we have received many offers of assistance from psychics and very extraordinary inventors
and magicians, but usually we succeed in eliminating them during the first conversation, as
soon as it becomes obvious that the Event doesn’t take place.

But this time, when we invited this group in St. Petersburg, which is engaged in forming the
alternative vision, to our institute, new opportunities became available.
Over the period of a few months, this group did exercises with poor Larisa, as well as
showing us the opportunities of forming alternative vision. No matter how long I spent
observing this alternative vision and communicating with this group, I was still not
immediately persuaded that it worked and I knew that it was impossible for me to persuade
someone else of this fact before I succeeded in persuading myself. And the most impossible
task was to persuade our director, because he is a physicist.

Everyone around thought that I just didn’t see the masks of those people and they were
making a fool of me. But we carried out many behavioral experiments with them, they read,
they walked across a room filled with furniture, they copied drawings. Finally, as a result of a
long-standing forming of alternative vision, Larisa gradually began to recognize the colours,
sometimes with mistakes and sometimes correctly, sometimes she began to see very well. But
as for the work with Larisa, we had to stop at this stage of the research, because along with
the restoration of various functions of her organism, along with the restoration of vision, the
negative memories about the event were also gradually restoring. So now she is at the stage
when she can see a lot, but we don’t continue to work with her and the expert on the method
doesn’t continue to work with her either. Although it is possible to begin to work again any
time, because this issue shouldn’t be just given up.

I have mentioned this, because these names have always appeared in the media, the names of
Larisa and the expert on the method. Our research (and we are Brain Institute) started when
we began to try to understand: after all, does the brain have something to do with it? And as
long as the phenomenon takes place, is it possible that the brain has nothing to do with it?
Perhaps we overestimate the role of the brain in this case, but we suppose that it is indeed the
supreme commander of the head. We decided to check, how does the simple phenomenon of
electroencephalogram (EEG) change – it is a very evasive and changeable phenomenon, both
in the way it is registered and in the way the transmission of the signal is formed in the brain,
depending on whether the signal is given to a person with opened eyes, who has normal
vision, or to a person with impaired vision. I. e. it is either vision through usual optic canals or
alternative vision through canals which are far from being clear.

So the research started when we performed the first very serious check of their vision: can
they just see anything at all? Please open the first illustration.

Seven people underwent electrophysiological examination. So here you can see Katia
Zarubina, who is sitting at the end of the table wearing a mask, and here is the committee
observing what Katia Zarubina is cabable of. At the request of Sviatoslav Vsevolodovich,
Katia Zarubina put on a mask made of plexiglass. Before she put the mask on, she had been
getting familiar with it for 24 hours. While wearing the mask, she was asked to identify
numbers and figures which appeared on a monitor screen. But she wasn’t informed
beforehand about the specific things that would appear on the monitor. Katia was wearing a
mask that she had never touched before, the mask she had worked with had been identical to
this one. This mask had been kept in Sviatoslav Vsevolodovich’s safe in the institute before
the research began. When the research began, Katia got the mask, moreover, she covered all
the gaps with cotton wool, you are going to see it more clearly in the following part of the
film. Images of various kinds were shown to Katia, including laboratory conditions, including
some figures, numbers, etc. The commettee was sitting on both sides of the table, and the
proceedings were recorded on both sides of the table. The proceedings were independently
written by two people. Katia, wearing this mask, identified 100% correctly all the things
which had been shown to her. I must say that the phenomenon of alternative vision is very
brittle, therefore Katia, who was able to see excelently wearing her black mask with no holes
at all, really needed to get this mask of another type, a mask made of plexiglass, in order to
get used to it, not to make holes in the mask. I resolutely repeat that the mask, which Katia
was wearing while identifying the things on the monitor, had been kept in the safe and Katia
got it only five minutes before the research and the registration began.

So the phenomenon of alternative vision, as a fact that is absolutely incomprehensible, but
real, seemed to have been confirmed. At least it was difficult not to admit it. Sviatoslav left
the room, saying: “I don’t understand it, don’t believe it, but it is true”. Later all this was
repeated once again, and in Sviatoslav’s film you are going to see how it looks in reality,
which is going to be more impressive. After that, of course, we started the electrophysiological research and began to make EEGs of invited patients. I’m not going to
demonstrate the EEG to you, although we have one here. In case someone needs to see it,
we’ll be glad to show it, though it is not very interesting. The important thing about it is that
when someone is seing through the mask and is switching on their alternative vision, it causes
the rise of their beta activity. We can state this fact, because the EEG has changed. So what of
that? It turned out that evoked potentials prove to be far more informative. If you don’t mind,
Sviatoslav.

The evoked potentials are as follows: those are the evoked potentials of the occipital branches
of the left and right hemispheres, the upper line represents reading without the mask, the
middle line represents reading with the mask (in this case it was reading from the screen of
the monitor; images of different things and animals appeared on the screen with 5-6 second
intervals, moreover, the research participant had to press the button once or twice depending
on what had appeared on the screen), the lower line represents the difference between the first
and the second results of the research. These are those who are able to see: they can see with
or without the mask. What was interesting about these experiments? To my mind, firstly, the
most interesting thing was the fact that reading with the mask went very well, and today you
are going to see how people read with masks. In cases of some of our research participants
reading with the mask went even better than reading without the mask, which was caused by
the conditions of their visual organs. But it was extraordinary in the case of one advanced
alternative seer. Our research was carried out the following way: in the beginning we showed
things to each person without the mask, then with the mask and in the end without the mask
again. When this seer began to see without the mask again, i.e. to see with his eyes, with his
visional organs, the evoked potentials showed that his alternative vision was still switched on.
It means that the evoked potentials of the occipital branches looked the way you can see them
(she is showing) here on the second image in both hemispheres.

The next thing: we registered… here the potentials can’t be seen very clearly, but this
demonstration is interesting, because the video was shot from all possible perspectives of the
usual (17.18) EEG of potentials. So the upper arrow is the somatosensory region, the lower
arrow is the occipital region. In both cases some changes proved to take place. The changes
were such that often (the place outlined by the square) the evoked potentials in the
somatosensory ( 17.41 ) area increased, when the person was looking through the mask, when
the material on the monitor was read with closed eyes. The somatosensory region reacted with
higher evoked potentials, while the evoked potentials in the occipital area were decreasing.
That was how the objective research looked like. This was the first research study.
However, the institute had no money for this research, so it was not continued, but seven
people were examined thoroughly. There was not just one research study, a lot of studies were
carried out with each of the participants. We observed the repeatability of the results, which is
very important. We saw that this phenomenon of alternative vision at least takes place
simultaneously with the changes in the brain, which we observed, or maybe even depends on
these changes. So it is correlated to the changes in the brain, which are connected with the
transmission of the signal in the occipital region, which is the usual region for the signal, and
in the somatosensory region, which is an unusual region for visual signals. Taking into
account everything I have told you, you probably can imagine how new it was for us. Though
I suppose, all this may have been already done by someone in the past and this thing may not
be absolutely new, but for us it was new and we considered it important to draw attention to
it.

N.P. Bechtereva

N.P. Bechtereva

To draw attention in order to find sponsors. We tried to do something, but probably even now
there are many people in this lecture hall who don’t believe in the reality of this thing. So
people didn’t believe us, but we considered it our scientific duty (and I have been working in
the field of human brain for more than 50 years), now that this phenomenon had been
discovered and proved from the behavioral point of view, proved by the changes in the
organism, in our case in the brain – we considered it our duty to make it known to the average
scientific community. As for us, we sent this work to a refereed journal titled “Human
Physiology”. Frankly speaking, if we expected anything from this publication, it was a new
opportunity to ask the people, working in this field, for help. When this physiological research
wasn’t carried out yet, but the phenomenon was already confirmed, I sent the president a
request for financial assistance in this kind of work, as I consider it extremely important. I
didn’t receive any reply to the letter addressed to the president. In the letter I was only asking
for financing, so that we would have an opportunity to work with the visually impaired, and I
was saying that our institute could consult this work as necessary. I have a copy of this letter
here, so in case you are interested, you can have a look at it.

I have never written any letter addressing the special services. It was not because I dislike the
special services, though I might have some reasons to because of the past, but because it
simply didn’t come to my mind. I am a doctor by profession and a physiologist by
specialisation, so I was thinking about the patients and the research, I wasn’t thinking about
the special services. So Kruglikov in his newspaper article just provided very inaccurate
information: he wrote that we are spending some money on this research, but in the institute
we have got no money for this work – there has been no money neither earlier nor later, and
we still have no money. Firstly, there was no money, secondly, this research is not in our plan,
thirdly, even when something is in the plan, you know, how much money we are usually
given.

Now I would like to stress that it is probably a very brittle phenomenon. When I was speaking
about Katia Zarubina with the mask, I have already said that we had to give her the mask at
least 24 hours or 48 hours earlier, so that she would get used to the mask. For example,
alternative seers can see through an iron mask or a mask of another kind, but they need to get
used to it, because the mask is usually fixed on the head, so for them it is a new situation, to
which they need to get used to. If there is any unfavorable situation, which can be caused by
different conditions, this phenomenon can temporarily undergo some changes. But it doesn’t
disappear, it is maintained even if the person has stopped practising these things for a long
period of time. Those who teach this alternative vision are true devotees, as it is very hard
work. I was just sitting for a few months, not during all this period, but only two-three times a
week, near the expert on the method, when she was working on the formation of this
alternative vision, so I saw what an incredible work it was. She had to repeat the same thing
from the beginning all the time, tirelessly, calmly, without any tension. I’m not going to speak
about her methods, she will tell about them herself. It will be better this way. If for some
reason she couldn’t arrive, I would try to say something. If there is some check, it is very
important to check this, though I suppose there was enough checking, now it is time to carry
out the research, and this should be done by physiologists, who are familiar with the work
with man.

Perhaps in physics, if you discover some new particle in some tricky device, you would
hardly begin to look for this particle right outside the window. But such an approach is
sometimes taken in different kinds of research, whose object is man. As long as you approach
the subject carefully, you are going to see all of this. In this case you are probably going to see
it right here. At least you will see it in the films, and not only in the films. Of course, we
involuntarily ask the question: what is it after all, what do they see? At present we can say that
there’s no definite answer to this question. Financing is needed to continue the work, it is
especially important to have the subsidy from the state in cases when visually impaired people
cannot pay for this work themselves. But we also need the money for the research, because
we are dealing with a phenomenon. The phenomenon must be explored! What thing in nature
could give us a clue? If we just try to read tea leaves, we can call it direct vision, i.e. seeing
directly through the brain, or maybe some kind of detection of the environment by the brain
(though sometimes we also use the term “indirect vision” to show that it is not something
which is seen through the eyes). But it seems to me absolutely unconvincing and very difficult
to prove, though a priori I can’t exclude any possibilities.

Here it would be appropriate to mention the following fact. There are some organisms in the
world of nature – some kinds of fish, butterflies (I guess, those are mainly britstar fish), whose
vision is formed owing to their skin. Their skin is stuck (it is not a proper word, but another
one doesn’t come to my mind now) with small lenses. The whole skin is an accumulation of
small lenses, and these britstars virtually see through the skin. Now let me remind you what
we, the people, have. The skin seems to be quite remote from the nervous system and the
brain. Indeed, where’s the skin and where’s the brain? But in fact, during the development,
during the evolution the skin, the neural tube, and then the brain and the spinal cord develop
from the same germ. It is very interesting. I found this information with the help of Alexandr
Nikolaevich Shipovalnikov. It turns out that later, approximately at the end of the first month,
that this human neural tube sends its ‘troops’, which are called migration, into the layer which
later forms the skin. Up to the moment when it becomes the skin, it is literally stuffed with
nerve endings. I don’t know whether all of you know this, I didn’t know at all that in the skin
each square centimeter includes more than three hundred nerve endings of absolutely all
kinds. And if we imagine that we need the skin only to cover our bones or to touch something,
it will seem unlikely that nature could have taken care of this all just in vain. I must say that in
the world of nature, in living organisms and especially in the human organism everything has
many functions. For example, our bones, on one hand, are our supporting device, on the other
hand, they are responsible for the hematopoiesis, and they also have many other functions.
Now I suppose (and I have already written about it carefully), that the skin probably has
something to do with this phenomenon. It seems to me to be so, not only because the skin
develops simultaneously with the nervous system and so close to it, but also because of the
things I observed during the process of learning the method. I saw that while training the
sensitivity of the skin is seriously engaged, i. e. the tactile feeling and the brain conceptions
based on the opportunities provided by the skin, so to say. Anyway, it seems to me that even
if there is another mechanism engaged (which, of course, cannot be excluded, there are
probably a few mechanisms of this alternative vision), the skin is still likely to be playing its
role.

So maybe there’s something else, maybe there are really some other mechanisms, due to
which the brain can perceive the information directly, but it’s unlikely that the skin doesn’t
participate in this process. Now let’s think about other possibilities. Can some other senses
help in this situation? Yes, they can. A large number of summarizing works have appeared
again after the anesthesia, or perhaps there are not so many summarizing ones, but there are
quite a lot of experimental ones. After the anesthesia we worked, and one can’t say that it is a
totally new field, but this interaction of sense organs, which takes place probably on the brain
level, is sometimes amazing. And this cooperation is now explained in different ways. One of
the explanations is that children have this interaction from the beginning, but as they get older
they gradually loose it. As for this interaction, there are different possibilities, there might be
sort of poor performance of the inhibitory reactions in the brain, as if the excitation caused by
activation in one organ’s region didn’t decelerate and passed on to another one; finally, the
formation of the anatomical basis of this is also possible. The latest summarizing work on this
topic is “Nature of view”, I guess it was published a couple months ago.

So this mechanism is also possible, i.e. other sense organs can help, but only if they have an
opportunity to help. I would like to stop here, now you are going to listen to Lubov Yurievna.
If anyone has any questions, please ask them later, after Sviatoslav Vsevolodovich finishes his
report, because you are going to hear and see a lot during his report. We will not leave, we
will be here waiting for your questions, but this way of presenting material will be more timesaving,
if you don’t mind.

 

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