Waking up with psychic powers

What are the possible explanations for a man who woke up after a brain injury with what feels like a new “sense”?

Southend Student Emerges from Coma with ‘Psychic Powers’

When Rob Ball was viciously attacked outside a Southend nightclub in 2009, the 6’8″ (2.02m) “gentle giant” was in a coma for two weeks and his family thought he’d never recover. However, since waking up, the former nightclub promoter discovered he had what appeared to be psychic powers.

However, soon after leaving hospital Ball began to hear voices in his head that told him things about other people:

“Soon they were so clear that I was telling people what popped in my head about them – often strangers in the street. I was getting messages predicting illness, love and death. People are shocked when I can tell them personal details.”

Ball’s mother, Chrissie Bacon, says he found her keys when she lost them in her own mum’s house. The 27-year-old has also predicted the sex of seven unborn babies and says he now wants to be a professional psychic.

Many many items are questionable in this story. First, we know nothing of his injury. Most severe head trauma results in unfavorable changes in the brain including memory disorders and neurological impairment. These new perceptions are far more likely to be related to the trauma causing impairment and changed patterns of the brain. Second, we have not established he has any new “ability” at all.

Contrary to the organization’s claim in the piece that they’ve never heard of this, the idea that an injury can “turn on” psychic abilities is not new. But it’s not ever been determined that psychic abilities are real let alone can be switched on. The brain scans show there is something unique with people who say they are having psychic experiences. But that is not evidence that the signature is paranormal or an unusual ability. It’s just a signature correlated to a feeling.

If he really has psychic ability, he can be tested. There are many groups that will assess your claims under controlled conditions. No one person reliably produces these abilities. Also, the effect fades when the ability to receive other sensory information is reduced and when objectivity (as opposed to subjective interpretion of events) is increased.

  4 comments for “Waking up with psychic powers

  1. Mark Richards
    March 26, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    “he found her keys when she lost them in her own mum’s house”

    I once found my GF’s keys in her laundry basket after she’d searched the whole house for them. I’ll take that $1,000,000 in unmarked $10 bills please, Mr Randi.

  2. Chris Howard
    March 26, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    I worked with acquired brain injury patients for a few years.

    It’s not uncommon for a person who has recently experience head trauma to perceive the injury as a new found ability.

    It’s mainly men that receive acquired brain injuries, because we have higher risk behaviors.

  3. Brandon
    March 27, 2014 at 12:58 AM

    This is also the plot of the Stephen King novel, The Dead Zone.

  4. Stamen
    March 27, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    Steven Novella does a good write up of this in Neurologica. He also talks about it on SGU. He mentions a study that found that of a group of ‘psychics’ tested, three quarters had had previous head injuries.

Comments are closed.