Objectives: Examine the effects of controlled changes in the Earth's magnetic field on electroencephalogram (EEG) and subjective report.
Methods: Fifty volunteers were exposed double-blind to changes in field magnitude, angle of inclination, and angle of deviation. Volunteers were also exposed to magnetic field conditions found near the North and South Pole. EEG recorded over temporal and occipital sites was compared across 4s baseline, field exposure, and no-change control trials.
Results: No EEG spectral differences as a function of gender or recording site were found. Geomagnetic field alterations had no effect on total energy (0.5-42 Hz), energy within traditional EEG analysis bands, or on the 95% spectral edge. Most volunteers reported no sensations; others reported non-specific symptoms unrelated to type of field change.
Discussion: Three hypothesized field detection mechanisms were not supported: (1) mechanical reception through torque exerted on the ferromagnetic material magnetite; (2) movement-induced induction of an electric field in the body; and (3) enhanced sensitivity due to alterations in the rates of chemical reactions involving electron spin states.
Conclusions: Humans have little ability to detect brief alterations in the geomagnetic field, even if these alteration are of a large magnitude.