Reality Checking with Brent Raynes


Were Gay Men the First Shamen?

Earth: A Dark Matter Highway?

The Emerging New Science of “Neuromarketing”

According to a report from Newsweek (March 22), a new tool whereby businesses may determine the potential sales value of any given product could be done scientifically, with brain-scan technology. Called “neuromarketing,” this method is already being explored by Ford of Europe and DaimlerChrysler of Germany. “We can scan people looking at lots of different images, find out afterward which ones they remembered and then go back to the scan data and find out what was specific about the brain activity that occurred in response to the remembered images,” stated Michael Brammer, chairman of Neurosense, an organization that’s on the cutting edge of “neuromarketing” research.

However, there are those who fear that such strategies may be dangerous. They point out how existing aggressive marketing techniques now contribute indirectly to things like obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, lung disease and gambling. Some object to the commercial use of medical technology. Meanwhile, neuromarketing proponents argue that this research and technology shouldn’t be discontinued on the grounds that it might be abused. “This is a descriptive technique–it describes what the brain is doing,”noted Neurosense co-founder Gemma Calvert. “You can’t make people go out and buy something.”

Possible Biological and Evolutionary Basis for Gay Men: Were Gay Men our first Shamen?

In the April 2004 edition of Health magazine I read that the apparent differences researchers are finding between the brains of heterosexuals and the brains of lesbian women and homosexual men. For example, it was reported that portions of the anterior hypothalamus, said to play a role in regulating sexuality, was twice as large in heterosexual men as in women or gay men.

In addition, left-handedness is partially determined by a region of the brain known as the corpus callosum, which it seems is larger in gay men than in straight men. In fact, almost 40 percent of gays are more likely to be left-handed than heterosexuals. “The weight of the evidence strongly suggests that levels of certain hormones, mostly testosterone, in the womb may affect sexual orientation,” noted Qazi Rahman, Ph.D., a lead author of a study conducted on this subject by England’s University of London. Also in a study done by this college they found that heterosexual women blinked more strongly when startled than men, while lesbians tended to blink like men.

Canadian neuroscientist Todd Murphy (see interview this issue) not only sees a biological basis for this condition but also an evolutionary role for it as well. Pointing to the anterior commisure, Murphy sees potential significance in the location of this structure which is located within the limbic part of the brain and connects the amygdala of both hemispheres, and which is larger in gay men than heterosexual brains of either sex.

“A gay man’s brain has more connections between the opposite emotional centers than other brains,” Murphy writes ( He describes how the amygdala is an important emotional structure in our brains that accounts for that sudden ‘burst’ of fear felt if you see a bus coming at you or that burst of elation felt when you become aware that someone looks your way with attraction in their eyes. The amygdala also plays a significant role in recognition. “It recognizes other people, or more importantly, how they’re feeling,” Murphy notes. “It responds to facial expressions, tones of voice, and, I’d guess, body language as well.”

Murphy also points out how a growing body of research is showing that the limbic system is the “strongest contender” as the source of religious and mystical experiences within our brains. From an evolutionary standpoint, he speculates: “Gay men were probably our first spiritual leaders. Our Shamen. In that social position, they would have been free to expect that their words would be heard, they would have been able to exploit their cognitive skills to the maximum, and they would have been able to access many altered states of consciousness that would’ve been unavailable to others.”

“Making sure that our populations produced some individuals who had extra empathetic skills might have given us more intelligent leadership than otherwise,” Murphy further reflected. “The larger anterior commisure implies that gay males might be more able to perceive meaningfulness, too. Like, for example, what a storm cloud means when its windy outside. They might have enhanced their tribe’s ability to respond to danger quickly. Their voice in the councils of the first human tribes could have been a profound advantage.”

In fact, Murphy concludes his observations with: “A 100 percent heterosexual population might well have gone extinct.”

Is Earth on a Dark Matter ‘Highway’ ?

An astrophysicist named Heidi Newberg, of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, speculates that invisible “dark matter” may be streaming regularly through our planet from another galaxy–specifically the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy. It seems that our Milky Way galaxy is ripping apart and consuming Sagittarius. One tail of the debris from this activity is running through our solar system.

“As the Milky Way consumes Sagittarius, it not only rips the stars from the smaller galaxy, but also tears away some of the dark-matter particles from that galaxy,”Newberg noted. “We may be able to directly observe that in the form of a dark-matter highway streaming in one direction through the Earth.”

Though some 90 percent of this material is believed by a good number of scientists to make up the universe, scientists still don’t understand it. They believe it involves some sort of particles and detection systems are in place to hopefully detect such interactions. One suspected candidate particle is called the WIMP, which means Weakly Interacting Massive Particle. Writer Robert Roy Britt ( March 30) speculated that as you read this report several may have passed through your body!