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Posted on Wednesday, November 02 - 2005

Would you like to help with a study of a strange sleep phenomenon that may shed light on memory, the contents of our dreams and even alien abduction?The study has been triggered in part by the emergence in recent decades of "a most bizarre phenomenon", according to Prof Chris French, head of the Anomolistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College in London. People around the world have reported being taken from their beds or from their cars by aliens. "These beings were often around four feet high, with spindly arms and legs and oversized heads," he said. "The most striking thing about them was their large black eyes through which theyappeared to communicate telepathically."The abductees, or 'experiencers' as they prefer to be known, would describe how they had found themselves on board an alien spaceship where they were subjected to (often painful) medical examination, during which sperm or ova might be extracted."To investigate, Prof French compared 19 alleged "abductees" and 19 age- and gender-matched volunteers.

Last week, he told a meeting in the Science Museum's Dana Centre that these "experiencers" scored more highly in a number of areas, including belief in the paranormal and a tendency to hallucinate. Many had a history of sleep paralysis, a penumbra of consciousness when sufferers sense the presence of a nearby threat, either when falling asleep orawakening."These findings show that it is possible to carry out good science in this controversial area, and start to discover what lies behind these unusual reports," said Prof Richard Wiseman, University of Hertfordshire. ''Of course," he added, "it is always possible that Prof French has been abducted by aliens, and unknowingly had these ideas put into his head to prevent the real truth emerging.''

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