Exploring Consciousness with Psychedelics

(ayahuasca, magic mushrooms, San Pedro and peyote) by individuals in ... psychedelic experiences, our understanding of what is happening in the ...

Exploring Consciousness with Psychedelics

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Exploring Consciousness with Psychedelics

Psychedelics, believed to be the oldest class of psychopharmacological agents in recorded history, are potent psychoactive substances known for their ability to induce a heightened state of consciousness in users. Over the years, controversy surrounding their effects has made investigations into the science of psychedelics difficult, however scientists have been regaining an interest in their action within the brain and the implications. On Saturday 22nd September, Chris Timmermann - a neuroscience PhD candidate from Imperial College London - delivered a fascinating presentation at the New Scientist Live festival in London on the use of psychedelics to study consciousness

Over at the Humans stage, Timmermann set the scene by exploring the longstanding use of classic psychedelics by individuals in Africa, America and Siberia for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. “Experiences occur below the threshold of consciousness” explained Timmerman, therefore when we take psychedelics we “Call upon our consciousness”, which usually results in a feeling of “Deep immersion with reality or a different dimension”. Despite centuries of literature documenting psychedelic experiences, our understanding of what is happening in the human brain, at a fundamental level, has been less apparent

A significant overlap was found between the DMT-induced experience and near-death experiences. Neuroscientists investigating consciousness typically use EEGs to study these brainwaves during altered states of consciousness as they provide insights into changes in brain activity. The different brain waves and their associated states of consciousness

Whilst more research certainly needs to be done, Timmermann’s presentation successfully demonstrated how psychedelics are beginning to shift our understanding of the mechanisms underlying altered states of consciousness and their implications.