Three different psychedelic drugs that are known to produce altered states of consciousness and that have been used illegally for recreation are the subject of a new study. Psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound that is produced by magic mushrooms, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and ketamine are the subjects of the new study. Researchers set out to determine if magic mushrooms, LSD and ketamine actually increase “global neural signal diversity.” The researchers wanted to know if the psychedelic state is actually an elevated state of consciousness. The research was published this month in Scientific Reports in Nature.
As part of Scientific Reports, Nature users are able to openly discuss the findings. One reader points out that ketamine, unlike magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs, is actually addictive. The researchers themselves pointed out, “For parsimony, ketamine is referred to as a ‘psychedelic’, while acknowledging that its pharmacology and subjective effects are somewhat different to those of the ‘classic’ serotonergic psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin.”
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They say that their research indicates that magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs really do push the user into an elevated state of consciousness.
“For all three, we find reliably higher spontaneous signal diversity, even when controlling for spectral changes. This increase is most pronounced for the single-channel LZ complexity measure, and hence for temporal, as opposed to spatial, signal diversity. We also uncover selective correlations between changes in signal diversity and phenomenological reports of the intensity of psychedelic experience. This is the first time that these measures have been applied to the psychedelic state and, crucially, that they have yielded values exceeding those of normal waking consciousness. These findings suggest that the sustained occurrence of psychedelic phenomenology constitutes an elevated level of consciousness – as measured by neural signal diversity.”
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The researchers claim that they were able to demonstrate, for the first time ever, that “measures of neural signal diversity that are known to be sensitive to conscious level, are also sensitive to the changes in brain dynamics associated with the psychedelic state.”
They say that the psychedelic state, like the state induced by consuming magic mushrooms, created brain-wide signal diversity at an elevated level when compared to the placebo.
“Despite the differing pharmacological mechanism of action of KET, LSD and PSIL, we observed a clear similarity in the cortical localisation of changes in signal diversity measures – with relatively overlapping spatial distributions centered over occipital and parietal cortices.”
The researchers say that their data suggests that the psychedelic state brought on by magic mushrooms and some other drugs lies above other states, including wakeful rest, when compared using a one-dimensional scale that is defined by brain signal diversity.
Magic mushrooms have been gaining greater recognition for the drug’s potentially positive effects. For example, the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, which researches drug abuse in British Columbia, is actually planning clinical trials to see if psychedelic drugs might be able to help people overcome addiction to opioid drugs, CBC reported. A John Hopkins University study from a couple of years ago found that magic mushroom’s active ingredient could help smokers overcome their addiction to cigarettes. Eight out of 10 study participants were still not smoking six months after they quit when using the compound in magic mushrooms and cognitive behavioral therapy.
“Quitting smoking isn’t a simple biological reaction to psilocybin, as with other medications that directly affect nicotine receptors,” Johnson says. “When administered after careful preparation and in a therapeutic context, psilocybin can lead to deep reflection about one’s life and spark motivation to change.”
“Therapeutic outcomes are often correlated with a mystical or a spiritual-type experience. People often have deep insights about themselves and their relationships with others and with God — and sometimes, as a consequence, have significant behavioural changes,” Dr. Kenneth Tupper, of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, told CBC.
[Featured Image by Peter DeJong/AP Images]