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Higher anticipatory response at 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h local sidereal time in zebra finches/Hohere antizipatorische reaktion um 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h lokaler sternzeit bei zebrafinken/Reaction anticipatoire augmentee a 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h temps sideral local avec des diamants mandarins/Respuesta anticipatoria de alta magnitud durante tiempo sideral local en 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h en mandarin listado.

While trying to understand the physical mechanisms of information transfer in anomalous cognition (AC), I analyzed published information on remote viewing and ganzfeld responses in relation to local sidereal time (LST), that is, the position of the subjects on the earth relative to the fixed stars in the sky. In a first study, using a database of 2,483 free response trials, Spottiswoode (1997a) obtained a high effect size for trials within one hour of 13.5 LST. On the other hand, the results of a second analysis (Sturrock & Spottiswoode, 2007) of an expanded database (842 new trials were added to the earlier ones) were ambivalent. Although the feature of higher effect size at 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST was evident, the application of the running-wave power spectrum analysis (that can potentially differentiate real from spurious LST effects, Sturrock, 2004) did not produce significant evidence of an LST effect.

The question is complicated by the coincidence at approximately 13 h LST of the enhanced AC performance (Spottiswoode, 1997a) and a large increase in the magnitude of the negative correlation between AC performance and geomagnetic fluctuations (Spottiswoode, 1997b).

The ability for short-term precognition toward the presentation of a disturbing visual stimulus (a video clip of a crawling snake) has been detected in the Bengalese finch, Lonchura striata (Alvarez, in press). Here I shall try to replicate that study, using as subject another estrildine bird, namely the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata, testing its response towards a less idiosyncratic stimulus (an artificial sound). In an effort to replicate the LST studies, as well as to extend the focus of research to nonhumans, I will also explore the relationship between precognition and LST, taking advantage of the narrowness of the peak found by Spottiswoode (1997a) for humans.

The zebra finch is native to Australia and the South Pacific, and breeds exceptionally well in captivity. Today it is one of the most common subjects of research, being widely used in many scientific disciplines, ranging from anatomy to evolutionary ecology, both in the wild and in the laboratory (Zann, 1996), serving also as a model for research in neurology, genetics of behavior development and other biological processes and environmental variables that impact human health. The zebra finch is the second avian species (after the chicken) whose genome has been sequenced (Ensembyl, 2009; Mossman, Birkhead, & Slate, 2006).


The methods of the present paper are inspired by those of Radin (1997), Spottiswoode and May (2003), and May, Paulinyi, and Vassy (2005), dealing with electrodermal activity and presentiment in humans. All subjects (25 adult female zebra finches) lived in a unisexual adult group of conspecifics in a 1.5 x 3 x 2 m aviarium near Seville, Spain (37[degrees] 17' 2" N, 6[degrees] 3' 58" W), and were fed a varied diet of seeds and vegetables. The experiments were carried out between October 29, 2009, and February 10, 2010. The choice of only females as subjects was done to avoid introducing the gender variable in the analysis.

Starting between 07:30 h and 11:00 h UT (again, to limit the potential effects of the UT time variable), the subjects (one at a time) were taken from their group and put into the 70 x 35 x 35 cm testing cage with transparent glass at one end (to film through it), and two external loudspeakers (see Figure 1), in a compartment out of sight from other birds. During each experimental session, after an accustoming period of 20 min and at 3-min intervals, 10 randomly ordered (order determined immediately before each presentation by a true random number generator by Orion Electronics) "stimuli" were presented: 5 audio startle stimuli (gunshot of 44100 Hz and 0.03 s duration, downloaded from internet) and 5 control stimuli of zero signal, or silence. The computer was located in an adjacent compartment and was connected to the loudspeakers by a long cable.

In order to detect a potential enhanced ability to predict the presentation of the startle stimuli during the period of maximum success found by Spottiswoode (1997a) in humans, each of the 25 subjects was tested twice, between October 29 and December 3, 2009, in the 2-hour window at 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST and, for comparison, between January 18 and February 10, 2010, at 18 [+ or -] 1 h LST, a time segment of very low effect size in Spottiswoode's report.


Conversion from UTC to LST date and time was done with Calendar Date and Time to Julian Day and Sidereal Times (version 7.2.7), available at internet (

Starting 1 min before the end of the 20 min accustoming period and during the whole trial, each subject was filmed with a 25 frames per second video camera (a Sony DCR-SR72E), located outside the testing cage (see Figure 1), and controlled by the experimenter from a hidden location in an adjacent compartment.

Video analysis was concentrated on quantifying the frequency of two patterns of behavior: the change in the direction of each bird's gaze and the number of acts of locomotion. Change in gaze direction is a form of environment exploration; in the zebra finch it can be estimated from head orientation (Eckmeier et al., 2008), and in this study was registered only when the birds were in standing position. This behavior can be easily recorded, since the birds move the whole head to fixate the eye from one point to the next, and due to the finches' characteristic jerky behavior, each orientation of the head is clearly separated from the next (see Figure 2), its observation being also facilitated by the conspicuous beak and head color markings. The characteristic down movement of the head immediately before flying was not considered, nor while the birds were either walking or jumping. Locomotion included jumping on the perch, walking on perch or cage floor, and flying between perches or toward the floor or walls of the cage. The number of jumps, steps, and flights were recorded.

The frequency of both behaviors in the 6-s period immediately before the presentation of the startle and control stimuli for each subject was counted (analyzing the video records frame by frame with an accuracy of 0.04 s, by using VirtualDubMod computer program), and stimuli and control totals were obtained for each subject.


To prevent experimenter subjective bias, a third person registered the time of initiation and order of the 5 startle sounds and the 5 controls in each session and provided me with the 10 times of initiation without telling whether each belonged to a stimulus or a control until I had analyzed the video clips without listening to the sounds and all trials had ended.

Statistical analysis

Frequency distributions for all variables did not deviate significantly from normality (p > .20, Kolmogorov-Smirnov test). The repeated measures ANOVA was used to test the null hypothesis that total frequencies before the startle stimuli and before the controls for the same subjects tested at 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h and 18 [+ or -] 1 h LST were drawn from the same population. For post hoc two-variables comparisons, the t test for dependent samples was applied (Sokal & Rohlf, 1995; Zar, 1996).

Data analysis was done using the STATISTICA 6.0 computer program. All reported p values are two-tailed.


When total individual frequencies of the two behaviors for the four conditions of prestimulus and control at 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST and 18 [+ or -] 1 h LST were compared, they were found not to belong to the same population: gaze direction: F(3,72) = 9.42, p < .0001; locomotion: F(3,72) = 2.98, p = .037 (repeated-measures ANOVAs). Frequencies for both behaviors are presented in Table 1.

The post hoc two-variables comparisons of change of gaze direction, carried out to detect a potentially anticipatory response at each of the two LST time segments, yielded a significant result at 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST, prestimulation frequencies being systematically higher than their controls, t(24) = 3.11, p = .005 (dependent samples). On the other hand, prestimulation frequencies at 18 [+ or -] 1 h LST were only slightly higher, and nonsignificantly different than their controls, t(24) = 0.54, p = .596 (see Figure 3).


Post hoc two-variables comparisons of frequency of locomotion also produced a significant result at 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST, although in the opposite direction from the change in gaze direction: previous to stimulation, the birds' frequency of locomotion became depressed, as compared to control, t(24) = 3.08, p = .005. At 18 [+ or -] 1 h LST the frequency distribution during prestimulation was only slightly lower than that during the control, and only marginally significant, t(24) = 2.04, p = .053. (see Figure 3).

The results of the comparisons of prestimulation frequencies for both criteria of precognition between the two LST conditions provided a significant difference for change of gaze direction (13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST: X [+ or -] SD = 11.66 [+ or -] 2.51 per minute, N = 25; 18 [+ or -] 1 h LST: 9.82 [+ or -] 2.24 per minute, N = 25; t(24) = 4.10, p = .0004, and a nonsignificant one for locomotion (13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST: M = 2.51, SD = 1.79 per min, N= 25; 18 [+ or -] 1 h LST: M = 2.52, SD = 2.21 per min, N = 25), t(24) = 0.02, p = .988.


The outcome of this study shows that the zebra finch is able to anticipate the occurrence of an alarm sound stimulus, in the same way as the Bengalese finch does toward a disturbing visual stimulus (Alvarez, in press). Also, the significant differences between prestimulation and control frequencies of the zebra finches' behavior at 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST, as compared to their controls, and the reduced size of this effect at 18 [+ or -] 1 h LST appear to agree with the relationship reported by Spottiswoode (1997a) between human anomalous cognition (AC) and local sidereal time.

However, we must be cautious in reaching conclusions about the relationship of precognition ability and local sidereal time before other possibilities are ruled out. Other potential factors affecting the results could be seasonal changes in the birds' predilection to exploration and locomotion, or a modulation of the birds' precognitive ability by environmental variables such as geomagnetic activity. On the other hand, the successful initial experimentation (at 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST) followed by unsuccessful subsequent experimentation (at 18 [+ or -] 1 h LST) could be viewed as a "decline effect" in psychic performance, commonly observed in humans, and attributed to a variety of causes, from individual psychology, social attitudes, electromagnetic fields, and experimental artifacts to psi properties (Colborn, 2007).

A plausible effect put forward by Ryan (2008) on the observed correlation of AC and LST might be caused by the regular fluctuations in the geomagnetic field known as geomagnetic pulsations, which exhibit seasonal and/or seasonal/daily variation. Since, as in the present study, most of the experiments in Spottiswoode's (1997a) database were carried out in daylight hours, an influencing factor with seasonal variation, as found by Sturrock and Spottiswoode (2007) in Spottiswoode's former database, would generate an apparent variation of AC effect by LST.

One possible reason for the opposite direction of change of gaze direction and locomotion, when comparing frequencies before the startling stimulus and before the control in the 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST condition, could be the need to visually explore what is about to happen, and at the same time stopping locomotion, in this way reducing unwanted detection by potential predators. Since optimal visual recognition of objects is attained when animals are not locomoting (Gibson, 1979), they usually intersperse movement with pauses, which provide the opportunity for the sensory systems to detect relevant stimuli, adapting this intermittent behavior to changing circumstances (Kramer & McLaughlin, 2001).

Whether the zebra finch and other animal species show an effect of local sidereal rime on AC performance will have to be definitely determined in future studies, preferably using a variety of subject species of different nervous system complexity and of more remote common ancestry than finches and humans. Some good candidate topics could be precognition in earthworms (Wildey, 2001) and dogs (Sheldrake & Smart, 2000), psychokinesis in insects (Metta, 1972) and chicks (Peoc'h, 1995), ESP and reinforcement in insects and rodents (Duval & Montredon, 1968; Parker, 1974; Schmidt, 1970), and homing and trailing in dogs and pigeons (Rhine & Feather, 1962; Sheldrake, 2002).

At first sight on inspecting Spottiswoode's (1997a) results, an enhancing influence (or signal) on AC performance could originate from the strip of sky with Right Ascension (RA, the cosmic equivalent of longitude) of 13.5 [+ or -] 1 h, and unknown declination (akin to latitude in the celestial sphere), an influence whose source could be outside the solar system.

Since we do not understand the nature of anomalous cognition and the processes related to it, it would be ideal to try to identify how the presumed signal would act. On the other hand, this signal, if finally demonstrated to exist, does not have to be of the same nature as AC, and therefore may not be subject to the same rules. For instance, both AC performance and the presumed signal may not decrease with distance, while the latter appears to be at least partially blocked by the earth (Spottiswoode, 1997a), but the former is not.


I thank M. Vazquez Castro for help in finch maintenance, to E. Collado for preparing the computer program for random stimuli presentation, and to A. Ryan for helpful comments. Part of the material used was obtained through project CGL2005-03620 of the Ministry of Science and Innovation--Spain.


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Estacion Biologica de Donana

CSIC, Av. Americo Vespucio s/n, Isla de la Cartuja

E-41092 Sevilla, Spain.

 Change of gaze direction Locomotion

13.5 [+ or -] 1 h LST
Prestimulation 69.7 15.0 25 15.1 10.7 25
Control 63.0 15.1 25 21.1 13.7 25

18 [+ or -] l h LST
Prestimulation 58.9 13.5 25 15.1 13.3 25
Control 57.8 14.7 25 17.8 12.2 25
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Author:Alvarez, Fernando
Publication:The Journal of Parapsychology
Article Type:Report
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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