BASIS OF BIOELECTRICMAGNETISM
Burk, Jr., M.D.
emergence of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the 1980s as
an important clinical tool has made the name "Tesla" a household
word, since the size of the MRI scanners is measured in this unit
of magnetic field strength. One Tesla is equal to 10,000 Gauss,
so Nikola Tesla must have exhibited considerably more personal
magnetism than Professor Gauss!
The resurgence of interest in this eccentric
genius can be correlated with the recent rediscovery of the exciting
field of electromedicine. At the turn of the century when Tesla
was doing his pioneering work, there was also tremendous interest
in the medical applications of electromagnetism. Unfortunately,
due to the political and scientific climate of the time, Tesla
died a misunderstood pauper and electromedicine was effectively
suppressed by the medical establishment, along with other alternative
practices such as homeopathy. Both Tesla and electromedicine were
guilty of being ahead of their time, but it seems now, 90 years
later, perhaps the world is ready for new ideas.
Born in Croatia, Tesla had a vision as
a child that he would eventually harness the power of Niagara
Falls. After he came to America as an electrical engineer, he
went to work for Thomas Edison and then was hired by George Westinghouse,
Edison's arch rival. The banking magnate, J. P. Morgan, pitted
the two companies in a bitter competition to provide power for
New York City from the hydroelectric resources of Niagara Falls.
Edison believed the entire country could be lighted by direct
current (DC), while Tesla invented alternating current (AC) as
a more efficient means of transmitting power. Edison eventually
had to admit bitter defeat, as Tesla succeeded in harnessing Niagara
Falls just as he had envisioned.
Tesla obtained over 100 patents for electromagnetic
devices, including the high-voltage Tesla coil. He moved on to
pursue his dream of transmitting power around the world without
wires. He planned to exploit the resonance frequency of the earth,
which he calculated to be approximately 8 Hertz based upon certain
parameters such as the thickness of the ionosphere and the velocity
of light. But Marconi used the knowledge he obtained from Tesla
to successfully produce the first radio-transmission across the
Atlantic Ocean, and Tesla fell from favor with J. P. Morgan. His
name faded into obscurity until the recent development of MRI.
The tremendous potential of electromedicine
was also overlooked until the 1950s when Robert Becker, M.D.,
an orthopedic surgeon, developed an interest in the bioelectric
basis of limb regeneration. His experiments on salamanders as
he studied the current of injury following limb amputation, led
to his discovery of the DC semiconductive analog system, an alternative
pathway for transmission of electrical information along the nerves.
Becker hypothesized that the myelin sheath,
which helps speed up the propagation of digital action potentials
along the axons, also forms the basis of a second communication
system that controls important, slower processes such as healing,
growth and development. Using this theory, he and others were
able to produce evidence of regeneration in frogs and rats by
implanting small batteries. As a spin-off of this research, he
also discovered the basic principles of bioelectric bone heahng
which has developed into a major commercial industry in the field
of orthopedic surgery. Advanced research is being pursued by members
of the Bioelectric Repair and Growth Society (B.R.A.G.S.) into
new areas such as wound, tendon and cartilage healing, as well
as nerve and spinal cord regeneration.
Becker's studies led him into other more
interesting areas including electroanesthesia, acupuncture, geomagnetic
evolution and the health effects of electromagnetic radiation.
Again using salamanders, he was able to show that changes in states
of consciousness could be correlated with changes in measurable
electrical potentials. Assuming the opposite also would be true,
he proceeded to induce sleep by the application of electrical
currents. These experiments have been duplicated in humans in
the Soviet Union, where considerable research has been done in
the field of electroanesthesia.
In the 1970s at the height of the resurgence
of interest in China, Becker was asked by the federal government
to investigate the electrophysiologic basis of acupuncture. He
was the first to describe the marked reduction in skin resistance
that occurs at the acupoints on the classical meridians. This
characteristic electrical phenomenon is now exploited by modern
commercial point finders, to confirm the locations on the body
that have long been known to the practitioners of the ancient
art of acupuncture.
At this point, Becker's interest in the
electromagnetic basis of life led him to question the safety of
our exposure to environmental radiation from power lines and radars.
Picking up on Tesla's theories of earth resonance, he reasoned
that due to our intimate relationship with the earth's magnetic
field during millions of years of evolution, the frequencies near
8 Hertz must have considerable biological significance. Unfortunately,
the military-industrial complex took a dim view of his actions
in testifying about the potential hazards of extremely low frequency
(ELF) radiation, and the grants he had been given to study acupuncture
and other topics, vanished, leading to his premature retirement
Fortunately, the story does not end here,
thanks to the determined efforts of many researchers in the International
Society of Bioelectricity (ISB) and the Bioelectromagnetic Society
(BEMS), who have pursued the basic science aspects of the interactions
between electromagnetic fields and biological systems. It is now
apparent these fields can have direct effects at the level of
the cell membrane, and on calcium ion channels that regulate intracellular
enzyme systems, through the postulated mechanisms of cyclotron
Carl Blackman, Ph.D., current president
of BEMS and a biophysicist at the Environmental Protection Agency,
has shown that not only are cells sensitive to specific ELF frequencies,
but the effects are modulated by the strength of the local geomagnetic
field which is in the range of 0.5 Gauss.
These windows of sensitivity maybe arranged
in a fractal distribution as described in chaos theory, suggesting
the cell membranes operate at a critical level of instability
in which a transient phase shift can be induced by the appropriate
electromagnetic field. Essentially, the growth of cells can be
switched on and off, providing a possible mechanism for the promotion
of cancer growth, suggested by epidemiological studies of leukernia
in children and tumors in power line workers. Thus, the stimulation
of cell growth by electromagnetic fields can be seen as a double-edged
sword with potential impact on theories of healing and malignancy.
Our relationship to the earth's electromagnetic
properties may be even more intimate than Tesla first imagined.
Magnetic sensing organs have been discovered in many organisms,
and researchers have demonstrated the importance of the geomagnetic
field in navigation by many forms of life from bacteria to birds.
In humans, it appears that the pineal gland may provide an important
link between electromagnetism and the brain. This master gland,
which was once thought to be a vestigial organ with little function,
controls the major biorhythms of the body and is exquisitely sensitive
to light, as well as other forms of electromagnetic radiation.
There is increasing evidence that the
resulting neuroendocrine effects may lead to alterations in reproductive
functions, neurophysiology and behavior. There have been links
to miscarriages in video display terminal operators and electric
blanket users. A generalized stress response produced by exposure
to electromagnetic fields may lead to alterations in immune functions.
Depression has been found to be related to low light levels during
the winter, and increased suicide rates have been correlated with
living near power lines. Psychiatric disturbances increase when
the geomagnetic field fluctuates due to sunspot activity and the
Neuroscientist Michael Persinger from
Laurentian University in Canada, believes the temporal lobes may
also be involved in sensing these fluctuations in the earth's
field, possibly resulting in microseizures in sensitive individuals.
He has gone so far as to design a magnetic helmet that pulses
the temporal lobes with earth resonance frequencies producing
mystical experiences in student volunteers.
There are also many new mind machines
from California, popularized by author Michael Hutchinson which
produce meditative states through entrainment of brain waves,
using light and sound at ELF frequencies. The fact the alpha frequency
of the brain as determined by electroencephalograph is in the
range of 8 to 10 Hertz, may not be a coincidence. Perhaps when
yogis and adepts are modulating their brain wave frequencies during
meditation, they really are achieving altered states of consciousness
by tuning in to the earth. Perhaps, we should, too.
I. & Draper, W.W. Lightning in His Hand: the Life Story of Nikola
Tesla. Health Research, Mokelumne Hill, CA. 1981.
Marino, A.A. Modern Bioelectricity. Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York.
Becker, R.O. & Selden, G. The Body Electric: Electromagnetism
and the Foundation of Life. William Morrow & Company, Inc., New
Becker, R.O. Cross Currents: the Perils of Electropollution. The
Promise of Electromedicine. Jeremy P. Tarcher Inc. Los Angeles,
Hutchinson, M. Megabrain: New Tools and Techniques for Brain Growth
and Mind Expansion. Ballantine Books, New York.1986.
from the Acupuncture Society of Philadelphia (ASOP)
Newsletter with permission from the editor.