Science investigates Laying on of Hands
by Dr. Bernard Grad
(The following is a transcript of a portion of the proceedings of a 2-day conference called "The Mind in Search of Itself," sponsored by Mind Science Foundation and Silva International in Washington, D.C., Nov. 25 and 26, 1972. Bernard Grad, Ph.D., was an associate professor of gerontology at McGill University School of Medicine, Montreal, Canada. He has published 70 papers in the fields of aging, cancer, and endocrinology.)
Dr. Hahn, ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to talk to you about a series of experiments involving the "laying on of hands."
This all started when a Hungarian gentleman (Mr. E.) came to me with the claim to be able to accelerate healing in people according to his experience in Hungary. I told him I was a biologist and therefore I couldn't bring any patients to him, but we could do experiments on animals and on plants.
When I asked him how he worked, he said that all he did was to lay his hands on the people. If they had a headache, he would put his hands on the head. He would hold his hands there for a while, 15 minutes, or 20 minutes, and repeat this as required, perhaps the next day or several times a week, generally not on the same day.
When we began to think of how we would do these experiments on animals, a number of problems came up. In working with animals, I preferred to work with mice. They're small and therefore inexpensive to maintain, but the question was:
How were we going to lay hands on mice? And ... I assume from your reaction that some of you don't care to.
However, we decided to construct a little metal box divided into 10 or 12 compartments, each big enough to accommodate a mouse, and when these were in the box to cover them with a wire screen. The first slide will just show you a picture of the one we used at the very beginning.
Working with mice
Now, there were several things that we found to be necessary in working with these mice.
The first thing to remember is that mice are nervous little creatures and their only defense, except for biting you, is to dart away as you reach out to get hold of them.
When you confine them therefore, in a small space like that, they're restless at first, but if left there for an hour every day for one or two weeks, after a while when they see that they are only in there for a short time and that no harm is coming to them, they will settle down and even go to sleep.
In fact, we had some evidence that it was necessary to get these animals to be quiet during the treatment period. Just putting them in the box, with them twisting and turning, trying to get out of the box, is not the state that we felt was the right one for them to accept the treatment. That kind of attitude of agitation and anxiety corresponds to what we would consider to be a negative attitude in people.
To further quieten the animals, one or two weeks before the proper experiment began, we would gentle them; that is, we would quietly stroke their fur on the back. All mice were gentled in this way before it was known whether an animal was going to go into the control or the treated group.
I want to emphasize that when we did these experiments, I used the same kind of experimental design as if I would have been testing a drug or food. In other words, we tried to make these experiments conform to the best that we knew how in biological experimentation. My problems at that time were to learn how to apply this laying on of hands treatment to the animals so as to give the treatment a fair trial.
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