New studies on psychedelic substances have lifted the veil of perception regarding its effect on the brain
Psychedelic substances have been used medicinally throughout the ages.
They have been used by a plethora of cultures to cure all kinds of mental disorders as well as connecting them to a higher state of consciousness. Psychedelic substances were of a sacred nature and spiritual rituals were inducted to guide participants through journeys of psychedelia.
Psychedelic substances took on a synthesised form when Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman accidentally created the compound for LSD and embarked on the famous ‘bicycle trip’ on April 19, 1943.
Once he settled into the psychedelic experience he started enjoying the display of colours ebbing and flowing around him.
74 years to the day new research was published in the journal, Scientific Reports.
Neuron activities become random
Researchers at the University of Sussex and the Imperial College in London conducted tests to measure the activity of neurons in people’s brains while on psychedelic substances.
Brain scans showed a higher level of random neural activity than normal neural activity while under the influence of LSD, Ketamine or Psilocybin (a compound found in magic mushrooms.)
The increased levels of random neural activity were accompanied by an array of peculiar sensations ranging from “floating and finding inner peace to distortions in time as well as a conviction that the self was disintegrating.”
Anil Seth, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Sussex had this to say about the findings: “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. Until now we’ve only seen decreases compared to the baseline of the normal waking state.”
Knocking on the door of perception
Brain scans reveal that parts of the brain important for perception were the most affected by psychedelic substances whereas the parts important for language and movement were not affected.
“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 senses, and all kinds of connections that are experienced between things that are previously unconnected,” Seth said.
These random neural connections are what makes for an increased and richer consciousness. It’s not just some hippy mumbo-jumbo or mystical nonsense. There is a physiological and biological underpinning.
Fellow researcher in this study, Robin Carhart-Harris ponders that this could be a “neural signature of the mind opening.”
The research of psychedelic substances could help scientists understand what neural activity responds to different levels of consciousness.
It could also pave the way for using psychedelic substances as tools in therapy to cure a variety of mental disorders like depression.
With the help of modern technology, we can lift the veil of negative perceptions regarding psychedelic substances and begin to harness their benefits.