Sound and Trance in the EEG – Brain mapping of different trance induction methods in a ritual setting


A cooperative project between the Department of Medical Psychology at Heidelberg University Hospital and the Institute for Music Therapy at Witten/Herdecke University

Project duration
2001-2004

Performance of measurements and data collection
07.09.2002

The research team
Project management Sabine Rittner, University Hospital Heidelberg, Dept. of Medical Psychology, and Prof. Dr. Jörg Fachner (then University of Witten/Herdecke, currently Dept. of Music and Performing Arts, Cambridge, GB). Furthermore: Prof.Dr.Rolf Verres and Dr. Horst Scherg, University Hospital Heidelberg, Dept. of Medical Psychology; Prof. Dr. David Aldridge, University of Witten/Herdecke, Institute of Music Therapy. The research team also consisted of a graduate student in psychology and two interns/music therapy.

The study is based on the assumption that various mental phenomena, which are subsumed under the terms “trance” and “vigilance”, can both vary independently of each other and can be induced simultaneously. The relationships between subjective trance experience, objectifiable trance depth, measurable vigilance and localizable brain activity in the topographic electroencephalogram were investigated.

The study focused on four different tested receptive procedures whose trance-inducing effects on the test subjects were measured and compared:

  1. Body monochord (“Somasandawa” after H.P. Klein)
  2. monochrome voices
  3. Peruvian Whistling Vessels (old Peruvian pipe bowls, trad. after D. Statnekov)
  4. a “ritual posture” with rattle stimulation (“The Olmek Prince”, trad. after F. Goodman)

With these procedures, both primarily trophotropic and primarily ergotropic altered waking states of consciousness can be triggered. The measurements were carried out in a ritual group setting (naturalistic design) appropriate to the research subject on one day in September 2002 at the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Hospital of Heidelberg.

In addition to the systematic variation of the above mentioned induction methods, written spontaneous utterances of the test subjects and group participants were correlated with the objectifiable physiological parameters. This is a multi-perspective research approach in which three different methodological approaches to the research object were chosen and correlated in the evaluation:


1. imaging method
Using a topographic quantitative spontaneous EEG (EEG brain mapping), the topographic change of vigilance states was measured in 2 subjects. This embedding of the measurements with the help of a transportable EEG measuring device in a non-artificial, familiar, ritual setting within a group known to the test subjects appears to be particularly important. In contrast to an isolated laboratory situation, this familiarity of the group situation ensures the experience-supporting sociophysiological influence on the sound-induced trance experiences of all participants. In this way, alienating influences of the setting (laboratory artefacts) can be avoided.

2. Quantitative analysis
Two different questionnaire batteries were used: “5D-APZ” by Dittrich, Lamparter and Maurer, Zurich 1999 and “Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory” (PCI) by Pekala, 1982, 1991 in the German version by Ulrich Ott, University of Giessen.


3. Qualitative investigation
The personal experiences of the test persons and the group participants, which were recorded in writing, were analysed in the form of a qualitative exploration of content, compared with each other and related to the results of the evaluation of 1. and 2.


The aim of this pilot study was the scientific examination and foundation of receptive music therapeutic and anthropological treatment methods for trance induction and their embedding in findings from consciousness research.

The pilot study was funded by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Hospital of Heidelberg (headed by Prof. Dr. Rolf Verres).


Project related publications

Fachner, Jörg; Rittner, Sabine (2003)
Sound and trance in a ritualistic setting – two single cases with EEG brainmapping
In: Brain Topography, Vol.16, No.2, Winter 2003. S. 121. Human Sciences Press.

Rittner, Sabine (2003)
Brainmapping of different Tranceinduktion Methods in a ritual setting
In: Nauwald, Nana, Goodman, Felicitas D. (Hg.): Ecstatic Trance: New Ritual Bodypostures. A Workbook. Binkey Kok Publications.

Rittner, Sabine; Fachner, Jörg (2004)
Sound and Trance in EEG – Brainmapping with the whole body monochord in a therapeutic setting
In: Music Therapy Review, Volume 25, 1st Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht.

Rittner, Sabine; Fachner, Jörg (2004)
Sound and Trance in the EEG – Brain mapping of different trance induction methods in a ritual setting
In: Music Therapy Review Online, Volume 25, 1.
(www.musiktherapie.de)
PDF Download: Sound and Trance EEG (German)

Fachner, Jörg; Rittner, Sabine (2004)
Sound and trance in a ritualistic setting visualised with EEG Brainmapping
In: Music Therapy Today (online). University Witten/Herdecke, Chair for Qualitative Research in Medicine (Hg.). Internet Vol. V, Issue 2.
PDF Download: Sound and trance in a ritualistic setting visualised with EEG Brainmapping

Rittner, Sabine (2004)
Brain mapping of different trance induction methods in a ritual setting
In: Nauwald, Nana; Goodman, Felicitas (Ed.): Ecstatic Trance. Ritual postures and ecstatic trance. P. 39 – 40. Havelte / Holland: Binkey Kok.

Gesell, Daniela (2004)
Sound & Trance. Qualitative evaluation of sound-induced trance states in the context of a pilot study
Diploma thesis in psychology, University of Heidelberg.

Fachner, Jörg; Rittner, Sabine (2005)
Music and altered states of consciousness (ASC). Sound and trance in a ritualistic setting visualised with EEG Brainmapping
In: Aldridge, D.; Fachner, J.; Erkkilä, J. (Hg.): Many Faces of Music Therapy – Proceedings of the 6 th European Music Therapy Congress, June 16 – 20,2004 . Finland: Jyväskylä. S. 942 – 973. E-Book (PDF) available at: Music Therapy Today.com Vol 6, Issue 4, Nov. 2005.
PDF Download: Music and altered states of consciousness (ASC), sound and trance in a ritualistic setting

Rittner, Sabine (2007)
Trance and Ritual in Psychotherapy and Research
In: Jungaberle, H.; Verres, R.; Dubois, F. (Eds.): Rituals Renew. Psychosozial Verlag.

Fachner, Jörg; Rittner, Sabine (2007)
EEG brainmapping of trance states induced by Monochord and Ritual Body Postures in a ritualistic setting
In: Isabelle Frohne-Hagemann (Hg.): Receptive Music Therapy – Theory and Practice. Wiesbaden: Reichert Publisher.

Rittner, Sabine (2008)
Brain mapping of different trance induction methods in a ritual setting.
Published in Russian language.
In: Nauwald, Nana, Goodman, Felicitas (Ed.): Ecstatic Trance. Ritual postures and ecstatic trance. pp. 50 – 52. Moscow. ISBN 978-5-386-00703-4

Rittner, Sabine (2011)
Brain mapping of different trance induction methods in a ritual setting
In: Nauwald, Nana, Goodman, Felicitas (Ed.): Ecstatic Trance. Ritual postures and ecstatic trance. P. 43-45. AT-Verlag.

Fachner, Jörg; Rittner, Sabine (2011)
Ethnotherapy, Music and Trance: An Investigation into Sound-Trance-Induction
In: Dean Cvetkovic et al. (Hg.). States of Consciousness: Experimental Insights into Meditation, Waking, Sleep and Dreams. Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, The Frontiers Collection Series. P.235-256. ISBN 978-3-642-18046-0

Rittner, Sabine (2012)
Sound – Trance – Healing: Changing states of consciousness between shamanism, science and music psychotherapy
Published in Japanese.
In Clinical Music Therapy. The Association of Clinical Music Therapy, Kyushu, Japan. Translation: Yukiko Mizokami. S. 10–30.