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  • Experiments in India on "Voluntary" Controlof the Heart and Pulse

    By M. A. WENGER, PH.D., B. K. BAUCHI, Pii.D., AND B. K. ANAND, M.D.

    PROMINENT among the many claims ofunusual bodily control that emanate from

    practitioners of Yoga is the ability to stopthe heart and radial pulse. Such claims oftenhave been authenticated by physicians, andone " experiment" employed a loud-speakersystem so that a large crowd could hear theheart sounds before and after their disappear-ance. To our knowledge, however, only oneinvestigator had published electrocardio-graphic results before the work now reported.In 1935 a French cardiologist, Dr. Therese

    Brosse, took portable apparatus to India andobtained measurements from at least one per-son who claimed the ability to stop the heart.A published excerpt from her data4 involvingone electrocardiographic lead, a pneumogram,and a pulse wave recording from the radialartery, shows the heart potentials and pulsewave decreasing in magnitude approximatelyto zero, where they stayed for several secondsbefore they returned to their normal magni-tude. The data were held to support the claimthat the heart was voluntarily controlled to apoint of approximate cessation of contraction.During our investigations in India wve

    searched for persons who claimed to stop theheart or pulse, and were cordially assisted bymany individuals including the Indian press.We found four. Another claimed only to slow

    From the University of California, Los Angeles;The Medical School, University of Michigan, AnnArbor; and the All India Institute of MedicalSciences, New Delhi.

    This work was made possible by grants from theRockefeller Foundation, The Rackham Foundation ofthe University of Michigan, and subcontract AF 18(600)-1180 from George Washington University, andwas sponsored by the Indian Council of MedicalResearch. Individual acknowledgments have been re-corded elsewhere.`~The analysis of the data wassupported, in part, by research grant M-788 fromthe Institute of Mental Health, National Tnstitutesof Health, U. S. Public Health Service.

    Circulation, Volume XXIV, December 1961

    the heart. Of the four, only three consentedto serve as subjects, and one of these claimedhe was too old to demonstrate heart stoppingwithout a month or so of preparatory prac-tice. Since he was the subject studied by Dr.Brosse in 1935 we were particularly anxiousto gain his cooperation and, after considerablepersuasion, he consented to demonstrate forus the method he had employed in "stoppingthe heart" for Dr. Brosse.

    Apparatus and ProceduresOur apparatus has been described elsewhere.1i3

    Briefly, it consisted of an 8-channel Offner type-Tportable electroencephalograph with appropriatedetectors and bridges for DC recording of respira-tion, skin temperature, electrical skin conductance,and finger blood volume changes. Procedures va-ried according to the cooperativeness of the sub-ject and other circumstances. For that reason theresults are reported for individual subjects.

    ResultsThe first two subjects claimed they could

    stop the heart. No. 1. Shri Sal Gram, at Yoga-shram, New Delhi, made four attempts at onesession. Only one electrocardiographic lead(III) and respiration were recorded, in whatwas planned as a preliminary experiment. Thesubject stood in a semi-crouched posture withthe left side pressed against a table. Underretained deep inspiration considerable muscen-lar tension was apparent in neck, chest, abdo-men, and arms. Stethoseopically detectedheart sounds either disappeared briefly orwere obscured by sounds from muscle action.Palpable right radial pulse weakened or dis-appeared briefly at each attempt to stop theheart. Electrocardiographic records were re-plete with muscular artifacts but were read-able for rate and QRS potential changes.Little change occurred in magnitude of poten-tials; changes in heart rate were small. Therewas no indication of heart arrest. The subjectrefused fnl th er cooperation.

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