WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Even without any external clues, your body can predict events that are about to happen. For example, you might sense that your boss is about to show up while you're playing a video game at your desk.
That's the conclusion of Northwestern University researchers who analyzed the results of 26 studies published between 1978 and 2010, and published their findings recently in the journal Frontiers in Perception Science.
It has already been shown that your subconscious mind sometimes knows more than your conscious mind, according to study author Julia Mossbridge, a research associate in the visual perception, cognition and neuroscience laboratory at Northwestern.
"What hasn't been clear is whether humans have the ability to predict future important events even without any clues as to what might happen," she said in a university news release.
For example, a worker playing a video game while wearing headphones wouldn't be able to hear if the boss was coming around the corner.
"But our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand and close your video game," Mossbridge said. "You might even have a chance to open that spreadsheet you were supposed to be working on. And if you were lucky, you could do all this before your boss entered the room."
This type of occurrence is sometimes called presentiment (as in sensing the future) but it's not clear if people are actually sensing the future.
"I like to call the phenomenon 'anomalous anticipatory activity,'" Mossbridge said. "The phenomenon is anomalous, some scientists argue, because we can't explain it using present-day understanding about how biology works, though explanations related to recent quantum biological findings could potentially make sense. It's anticipatory because it seems to predict future physiological changes in response to an important event without any known clues, and it's an activity because it consists of changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin and nervous systems."
The Parapsychological Association has more about precognition.