About the UVA Division of Perceptual Studies (UVA DOPS)

About the UVA Division of Perceptual Studies (UVA DOPS)

DOPS is dedicated to exploring the depths of human consciousness and investigating phenomena that challenge mainstream scientific paradigms. The UVA Division of Perceptual Studies (UVA DOPS) has been at the forefront of groundbreaking research since its establishment in 1967 by Dr. Ian Stevenson. As a highly productive university-based research group, DOPS is dedicated to rigorously examining empirical evidence surrounding extraordinary human experiences, aiming to shed light on the nature of consciousness and its relationship with the physical world.

At the core of their research mission, DOPS researchers strive to objectively document and meticulously analyze data related to exceptional human experiences and capacities. Through their meticulous evaluations, they seek to determine whether the mind and brain are distinct and separable, and whether consciousness can transcend physical death.

Additionally, DOPS investigates the profound impact of these experiences on individuals and society as a whole. By exploring the implications for scientific theory, they aim to disseminate their findings widely to the general public and scientific communities alike, fostering a greater understanding and appreciation for the mysteries of human consciousness.


Under the leadership of Director Jim B. Tucker, M.D., a Bonner-Lowry Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, the team at UVA DOPS consists of accomplished researchers who bring a diverse range of expertise to the table.

One such member is Maggie Guggenheimer, M.A., an Administrative and Business Development Executive, whose interests align with the exploration of the nature of consciousness and altered states of consciousness. With a strategic planning and organizational development background, Guggenheimer contributes to the team's operational efficiency and growth.

Dr. Ross Dunseath, Assistant Professor of Research, focuses his efforts on biomedical instrumentation and the concurrent use of EEG and functional MRI brain imaging. Through his research, Dunseath aims to unravel the intricate relationship between brain activity and consciousness.

The renowned Dr. Bruce Greyson, Chester F. Carlson Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences and former Editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies, brings his extensive expertise to the study of near-death experiences, crisis apparitions, and death-bed visions. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, Dr. Greyson's contributions have been invaluable in advancing the field.

Dr. Edward F. Kelly, a Professor of Research, delves into the neurophysiological correlates of psi (parapsychological phenomena) and altered states of consciousness. His research sheds light on the elusive connections between consciousness and the inexplicable.

Dr. Emily Williams Kelly, Assistant Professor of Research (Retired), has dedicated her work to the study of death-bed visions, crisis apparitions, and near-death experiences, particularly veridical NDEs (near-death experiences with accurate, verifiable information). Her contributions have been instrumental in unraveling the mysteries surrounding these phenomena.

Dr. Marieta Pehlivanova, Research Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, focuses her efforts on near-death experiences, children who report memories of previous lives, after-death communications, and the personality correlates of psi beliefs and experiences. Her multidisciplinary approach contributes to a comprehensive understanding of these complex topics.

Finally, Dr. J. Kim Penberthy, Chester F. Carlson Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, investigates altered states of consciousness, mindfulness and health, and hospice experiences. Her research highlights the potential benefits of mindfulness and explores the profound experiences of individuals nearing the end of life.

Research Endeavors

Through their collective expertise and dedication, the researchers at UVA DOPS aim to deepen our understanding of consciousness and the extraordinary experiences that challenge conventional scientific paradigms. By embracing a rigorous scientific approach, they hope to inspire fellow scientists to join them on this exciting journey of discovery.

As UVA DOPS continues to expand its research endeavors, they welcome collaboration from scientists across various disciplines who are equally intrigued by the nature of consciousness. By fostering a community of like-minded researchers, UVA DOPS aims to accelerate the progress in understanding and unraveling the mysteries surrounding consciousness.

One of the key areas of research interest at UVA DOPS is the investigation of children who report memories of previous lives. This fascinating field of study explores cases where children seemingly possess detailed knowledge of events and people from a past life. Through careful examination and documentation, researchers at UVA DOPS seek to understand the origins and implications of these extraordinary experiences, offering valuable insights into the nature of consciousness and the possibility of reincarnation.

Another fundamental focus of research at UVA DOPS is the exploration of altered states of consciousness. By delving into these altered states, such as those induced by meditation, psychedelics, or other means, researchers aim to uncover the profound changes that occur within the realm of consciousness. This line of investigation not only sheds light on the fundamental nature of consciousness itself but also holds promise for therapeutic applications and personal growth.

The team at UVA DOPS also has a strong interest in mindfulness and meditation. Recognizing the transformative power of these practices, researchers explore the impact of mindfulness on health, well-being, and overall consciousness. By scientifically examining the effects of mindfulness and meditation, UVA DOPS aims to provide empirical evidence supporting their benefits and integrating these practices into mainstream healthcare.

Furthermore, UVA DOPS is actively engaged in strategic planning and organizational development, ensuring that their research efforts have a broad and lasting impact. By strategically disseminating their findings to the public and scientific communities, they aim to foster a greater understanding and acceptance of the nature of consciousness. Through collaboration with other institutions, public outreach, and the publication of their research, UVA DOPS strives to make a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge in this field.

The work carried out by UVA DOPS researchers has the potential to challenge and reshape mainstream scientific paradigms. By rigorously examining empirical evidence and documenting extraordinary experiences, they are paving the way for a deeper understanding of consciousness and its intricate relationship with the physical world. Through their dedication, interdisciplinary collaboration, and commitment to scientific rigor, UVA DOPS continues to push the boundaries of scientific inquiry, inviting scientists and the public alike to explore the frontiers of human consciousness.

As the years go by, the UVA Division of Perceptual Studies remains committed to its mission of scientifically studying extraordinary experiences. With each new discovery, they bring us closer to unraveling the mysteries of consciousness and its profound implications for our understanding of human existence. The future holds exciting possibilities as UVA DOPS continues to expand its research and collaborate with fellow scientists, making significant strides in the scientific exploration of consciousness.