Psychedelic Experiences Neurologically Mimic Near-Death Experiences
Research suggests the psychedelic trip is remarkably similar to a Near-Death Experience and has been noted for decades. Now, research into the neural activity experienced while under the influence of psychedelics, is providing valuable context for the commonalities.
Dr. Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon who experienced an NDE in 2008 and has since been studying the phenomenon and sharing his findings in a number of bestselling books.
“This research with psychedelics has been so fascinating,” Alexander said. “Not only does it show that the brain goes dark under the influence of such substances, they actually showed this beautiful inverse correlation between the amount of turning off and dissolution of the Default-Mode Network, as demonstrated on fMRI, with a degree of liberation of consciousness away from the ego into these unfettered realms of transcendental and paranormal experience. It shows us in a very concrete fashion that the brain activity is not actually causing all of this to happen, but it’s more the brain getting out of the way.”
Researcher Dr. Rick Strassman was the first to rigorously study the overlap between the psychedelic experience and the NDE. The commonalities are quite significant.
“It’s all about entering new realms, I mean, entire immersive experiences — worlds that are different from our material realm. That is a very common theme in those drug experiences as well as in near-death experiences. There’s also this extraordinary world of beings, entities, guides, of intelligences. It’s showing this incredible unification, a sense of being, and a binding force of love through these experiences. So, there’s a commonality of lesson and transformation,” Alexander said.
Researchers have been focused on trying to determine what accounts for the similarities. One theory is that the overlap is due to the action of the potent psychedelic DMT, which is naturally released by the pineal gland at the moment of death.
“Well, I don’t really think we have a lot of evidence of the “DMT dump,” as it’s often called. The problem is with any materialist addressing of NDEs you run into that absolute giant brick wall. What about shared death experiences?”
“In a shared death experience the soul of the departing loved one comes along and whisks the bystander’s soul away to go through a full-blown experience. The fact that ordinary people in that kind of setting, without being near-death, can have a spiritual journey that’s identical in quality of power to the near-death experience, but they’re not near-death, should tell you a whole lot about what a waste of time it is for materialist scientists to try and muddy the waters by pretending that decreased oxygen tension, increased CO2, or a dump of DMT from the pineal gland is causing the effect,” Alexander said.
While Alexander sees the similarities between the near-death and psychedelic experience, he also sees some key differences, based on his own experiences with both.
“I took it on myself to look into a scientific acquisition of that kind of an experience and I was able to do that with 5-methoxy-DMT which is one of the most powerful such substances known,” Alexander said. “What I can tell you, in a nutshell, is that I do believe that such substances and the experiences they engender give us a glimpse of those spiritual realms that are encountered during an NDE. But from my personal experience in both of those worlds, I can tell you that the 5-MeO-DMT experience was like looking through a keyhole on a dark and stormy night and trying to discern what was going on in that territory. It really lacked the power and the depth and breadth of what I went through in the NDE”
While Alexander values the neuroscience research being done into how psychedelics may engender an NDE-like experience, he believes there is a better way of accessing the same spiritual realms.
“The psychedelic drugs certainly can be useful for helping to define the scientific landscape that we’re talking about here. I would just argue that meditation, centering prayer, these are the best places to go to get deep and profound transcendental experiences in the spiritual realm. And the more we can learn how there is overlap between the therapeutic benefit of the substance versus meditation, I think the more we can come into very safe and effective ways to accomplish these goals of healing,” Alexander said.
New Gene Discovery May Explain Rapid Human Brain Evolution
A revealing new study on human evolution and brain development has just been published. Could this lend credence to the stoned ape theory of brain evolution?
About 300,000-800,000 years ago the human brain experienced a massive and accelerated growth spurt. Scientists have offered many explanations for how and why this may have occurred, but a new study out of Boston Children’s Hospital focused on a fast-evolving set of the human genome called human accelerated regions (HARS). Previous studies have found about 3,100 HARS during brain development, but the team at Children’s Hospital determined one HAR gene PPP1R17 could be responsible for or play a significant role in, rapid brain development. Further, they discovered this works differently in humans than in other animals.
Ben Stewart, the host of Gaia’s Limitless series, said,”[T]hese regions of the human DNA may hold some kind of an answer at the rapid explosion of human neo-cortex because if you think of it evolutionarily, there’s not been one creature, at least on planet Earth, that has been studied that had any organ increase in size as large and as rapidly as the human brain did, so there’s definitely some unanswered questions there.”
“I’m pretty sure that these HARS regions are being looked at for something very unique in the evolution of the brain, and my own personal twist on it is this also might be important when we start looking at brian-machine interfaces and how the brain can potentially cause mutations to adapt to some kind of technology in the brain to enhance or evolve the human brain,” Stewart said.
How could this new discovery be related to the Stoned Ape theory?
“There’s a possibility that the Stoned Ape theory could lead into this. Now, the Stoned Ape theory was really popularized by Terence McKenna,” Stewart said. “Over time, you would have some of our ancient ancestors, hominids, that would be following behind bovine creatures, cows, and in the cow patties in the fields that would naturally, having followed these creatures around for hundreds of thousands of years or whatever it might have been, that they would have started eating the mushrooms, the psilocybin mushrooms that grow naturally in cow patties. These experiences tickling the language centers and other parts of the brain, bringing down the rigidity of the default mode network, and activating other communication hubs within the brain, that could actually explain the rapid explosion of the human neocortex.”
“In this article, they’re saying that these human accelerated regions act differently in humans than they do in primates or creatures like mice and ferrets that they’ve looked into now. So, potentially if there is some connection with the Stoned Ape theory, that psychedelics or psychotropics helped in the expansion of the human neocortex, and made us as, at least psychologically, so much different than the rest of the creatures on Earth, then there may be something to look at here.”