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Existence with the Volume Down

heather's picture


The Incident:

On a Friday afternoon, not too long ago, I experienced a new level of perception. This occurred during an episode of nausea and acute pain that the doctor wrote off as “a bad reaction to an antibiotic”. It was the neurological symptoms I experienced during that time which generated a valuable experience:

While making my way across the apartment, my field of vision was covered with what I can only describe as static. It clouded my sight, starting lightly at the periphery and ultimately heavily filling the entire scene – only a few darkened remnants of the rooms I had just known so clearly filtered through the chaos, revealing to me the proper direction. Once seated (a safer option), I became aware, with all able senses, of an analogous feeling of static in many mediums. I could hear it filling the room; I could hear and feel it rushing around within my own body; still my sight was swarming with static. I felt as if I were removed from my own mind and more in tune with the happenings of my body – in essence, I felt super-sensitive to things of which I was usually unaware. I am able to tell this story because somehow, in the midst of the clamor, my concept of identity (my I-function) remained afloat. However strange this may sound, it was as if “I” was sequestered to a small part of my brain – totally aware of what was occurring to my body, but with absolutely no ability to control it. After half an hour or so, these sensations subsided.



The Explanation:

After discussing my experience with Professor Grobstein, and confirming the suspicion that there may be some truth and meaning behind the randomness, I am ready to assert that what I experienced was actually a clearer picture of reality. Our perception is an incomplete picture; we have tuned out much of the “noise” in favor of a clearer picture. Under normal circumstances, we are unable to interpret or even begin to process much of the signal that exists in our surroundings. Professor Grobstein’s page on Chance gives an excellent visualization of this phenomenon.

As Erwin Shrodinger professed in 1944, “Any … kind of lawfulness and orderliness that one might think of is being perpetually disturbed and made inoperative by the unceasing heat motion of the atoms" (2). Even so many decades ago, this physicist was aware that the order we perceive is actually alive with the random motion of molecules. I consider the “lawfulness” of which he speaks (in terms of our perception) a system of signal filtration our nervous system employs in order to make any sense at all of our environment.



So, What Happened in my Case?

This proposed explanation for the static that I saw in my field of vision can be supported further by the observations of neuro-bio-physicist Fred Reike. An article on his research describes the function of the rod-to-rod bipolar synapse – a synapse that connects rods cells to rod bipolar cells. As explained in the article, it “elegantly regulates which visual signals make it deeper into the brain.” It works by “reject[ing] weaker signals, which tend to be just background noise, the equivalent of sensory static” (1). Here, in the words of others, is the concept of static.

It is encouraging to have found a potential reason for my visual symptoms, though I found less recent information about the experience of feeling neurological static within my own body. Some research, however, points at a similar phenomenon in autistic children. The research of Carl Delacato pointed at a hypersensitive nervous state, a “white-noise group” of children, who could hear “their own hearts beating, their digestion progressing, and their circulation, especially near their ears” (4). It is possible that the noise I heard really was one coming from within my body – circulation, perhaps – but I suppose I may never know.

I have come to classify what I experienced as neurological hyperactivity – an increased ability to perceive existing signals – but I can state nothing more specific than this. I encourage anyone possessing a similar experience to speak out, so that perhaps together we may begin to unravel this neurological mystery.




1) “Fred Reike, Ph.D” – HHMI Investigators
Someone who has also seen the static.

2) “What Is Life?” – Erwin Shrodinger, 1944

3) “Chance” – Laura Cyckowski and Paul Grobstein
This page is highly pertinent to this paper

4) “The Ultimate Stranger: The Autistic Child” – Dr. Carl Delacato


Paul Grobstein's picture

Chance, noise, and "reality"

For more on this story, see eliminative reality? and following comments. All of which is reflected in, as well as reflected by, Chance in Life, Serendip, and the World. And there's more to come.