Psionic Laboratories, or Psi Labs are a critical weapon in the fight against the aliens. Soldiers using this facility learn how to assess their psionic potential and use it in combat.
Each lab can train up to ten soldiers. Training is allocated at the end of each month. Psionic skills used in conjunction with a Psi-amp can be used for psionic attacks during combat.
While facility is called a "Psi Lab" the name is somewhat misleading. As less than a third of its space is really devoted to pure research, the majority being given the appropriate label of "Psionic Gym." It is in this section that the UNETCO staff hone their mental skills and reinforce their sanity. In all XCOM bases it is located adjacent to the Mind Shield, and another role it plays is to assist in monitoring and keeping that essential device functional.
There are safe areas designated for Psionic and Physiological Therapy, Mental Isolation, Telekinetic Development and Experimentation, and general Psionic Exercise and Evaluation.
The psionic capable aliens, the Ethereals and Sectoids, both possess sensory organs called amupllae psionic, which allow them to manifest their formidable powers. Human beings are fortunate enough to possess a corresponding set of neural canals, but far denser and smaller in size. Long term research with captured aliens has proven that they have both a stable level of psionic power and psionic projection, which neither atrophies nor improves with time and practice.
Humans, however, need to practice exhaustively before they are capable of mimicking substantial psionic projection, even with the external aid of a PsiAmp. An alien would be born (more accurately: cloned or manufactured) with the level of psionic ability it would die with. A human starts out much weaker, but with practice, and the aid of technology, can eventually rival or even surpass the most powerful Ethereal.
The psionic training facility uses "ganzfield" sensory blockers, a sensitive psionic receiver, and a fixed version of the psiamp. The electronics recognize the projection of a trainee and provide auditory feedback through the headset. The trainee attempts to project their impressions of this tone along with their other thoughts. The stronger the feedback loop, the stronger the audio tone. Half of this feedback loop is thus psionic and the return half electronic.
Most of the training takes the form of games and consists of both projecting and resisting - projecting is attempting to establish a feedback loop with a remote field, and resisting is attempting to break a feedback loop initiated by a remote field. In combat this corresponds to attack and defence. Psionic skill in attacking is also developed by moving the target, which forces the trainee to be effective in rapidly translating between normal space and consciousness space and performing the projection accurately. Defence depends mainly on psionic strength, a passive ability.
Each station is screened from the others. The headset also muffles external noise. Special goggles flood the eyes with a soft red light. It is in this sensory deprived trance state that projection comes most easily. As the trainee becomes more skilled at initiating and establishing an interface with the psiamp, the sensory deprivation equipment can be reduced and eventually removed. Soldiers are then able to go into this trance state without aid in the field.
This training serves to both screen soldiers for latent psionic ability and to exercise that ability. For several weeks, even the best soldiers may not be able to grasp what is asked of them, so a full month is required for proper evaluation. Psionically gifted soldiers are of course extremely valuable assets. Due to the high casualty rate of XCOM, commanders have recommended that the soldiers undergoing training should be given less hazardous duties or taken off active duty for that month, until at least a preliminary screening report is available.