This may not come as much of a surprise to anyone who’s experimented with psychedelic drugs, but scientists have found that people under the influence of LSD, ketamine or psilocybin (a compound found in magic mushrooms) may experience a heightened state of consciousness.
In a series of brain scans, volunteers who took one of the three aforementioned drugs were found to have more brain activity than normal while under the influence. This change in brain activity was accompanied by a range of unusual sensations that participants described as "floating," "inner peace" and "distortions in time," researchers from the University of Sussex and Imperial College, London found.
“What we find is that under each of these psychedelic compounds, this specific measure of global conscious level goes up, so it moves in the other direction. The neural activity becomes more unpredictable,” said Anil Seth, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Sussex.
“Until now, we’ve only ever seen decreases compared to the baseline of the normal waking state.”
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, reveals how the drugs’ most remarkable effects were found to be in parts of the brain that are important for perceptions (rather than language or movement).
“I think people would have the intuitive idea that their experience on psychedelic compounds is a bit more random, a bit less constrained, that there’s a mixing of the senses, and all kinds of connections that are experienced between things that are previously unconnected,” Seth said.
Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College, who took part in the study, said the abrupt rise in random brain activity seemed to reflect a more profound and meaningful conscious state.
“People tend to associate phrases like ‘a higher state of consciousness’ with hippy speak and mystical nonsense. This is potentially the beginning of the demystification, showing its physiological and biological underpinnings,” he said. “Maybe this is a neural signature of the mind opening.”
The research could eventually help scientists determine what kinds of psychedelic drugs might benefit mental disorders like depression.
“The evidence is becoming clear that there is a clinical efficacy with these drugs,” said Seth. “We might be able to measure the effects of LSD in an individual way to predict how someone might respond to it as treatment.”
h/t The Guardian