Study Finds Evidence Of Higher Consciousness From Psychedelics
Scientists have found the first evidence of a higher state of consciousness by measuring the complexity of brain activity of people under the influence of psychedelics. The study measured magnetic fields generated by brain activity and used the data to create an index of varying levels of consciousness.
The study, conducted by a team at the University of Sussex in England, looked at the diversity of brain signals, a measure of the complexity of brain activity, in people under the influence of psilocybin, LSD, and ketamine, compared to the brain activity of people in lower levels of consciousness, such as sleep, anesthesia, and ‘vegetative’ states.
Participants under the influence of these drugs showed higher than baseline diversity, or higher levels than someone who is simply awake. This is the first time a measure of an elevated consciousness has been recorded in a study of its kind.
The researchers were quick to point out that their measure of higher consciousness doesn’t necessarily imply that the psychedelic state is better or higher functioning than our normal waking state. Instead the index they’ve used shows that the psychedelic state increases small magnetic fields produced by the brain and higher neural-signal diversity in all three types of drugs.
According to the study, “During the psychedelic state, the electrical activity of the brain is less predictable and less ‘integrated’ than during normal conscious wakefulness.”
One researcher involved in the study, Dr. Muthukumaraswamy, said he was surprised the results were consistent with each drug, despite their differing pharmacology. He and his colleagues believe that their research could lead to carefully-controlled use of the drug for therapeutic treatment in patients suffering from severe depression.
The group found correlation between participants’ reports of changes in intensity of the psychedelic experience and changes in brain signal diversity. They believe this shows there is a difference in aspects of brain activity in our everyday conscious experience.
This study comes after recent trials have shown psilocybin can flip a “reset” mechanism in the brains of people suffering from depression. Similar studies found benefits in the therapeutic use of ketamine and LSD for people suffering from a range of physical and psychiatric issues, including drug addiction and PTSD.
Similar studies have been conducted to test electroencephalography, or EEG, on participants in deep states of meditation, finding increased levels of alpha and theta wave activity. It’s unclear whether this recent study plans on testing participants levels of brain-signal diversity in non-intoxicated, altered states of consciousness.
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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.