People who use psychedelic drugs claim that the substance expanded their consciousness. Now, scientists have found evidence suggesting that ketamine, LSD, and psilocybin, a compound found in magic mushrooms, may indeed have this effect.
More Random Activities In The Brain
In a new study, researchers measured the activity of the brain's neuron in healthy volunteers who received ketamine, LSD, and psilocybin when they were under the influence and found more random activities than normal.
The shift in brain activity also occurred along with other claimed peculiar sensations among participants, which range from having the idea that their self was disintegrating to floating and finding inner peace and experiencing what they felt were time distortions.
The brain scans suggest that the most notable effects of the drugs occurred in regions of the brain that play important role in perceptions rather than on language and movement.
Study researcher Robin Carhart-Harris, from Imperial College, and colleagues said that the sudden rise in randomness in the participant's' brain activities appears to reflect a deeper and richer conscious state.
"These findings suggest that the sustained occurrence of psychedelic phenomenology constitutes an elevated level of consciousness — as measured by neural signal diversity," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports on April 19.
Study Backs Up Claims Of Hippies
The findings of the study may back up what hippies have long known, but it has more important implications. The research can help scientists better understand what neural activity corresponds to different levels of human consciousness.
"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," Carhart-Harris said.
Understanding how people respond to drugs may also help doctors to predict more accurately which patients may benefit from using psychedelic drugs to treat mental disorders.
Potentials Of Psychedelic Drugs As Treatment For Mental Health Issues
Earlier studies that looked at the potential uses of psilocybin for treating mental health issues had promising results. A study published in the journal PNAS in April 2016, for instance, found that low dosage of psilocybin can help reduce distress caused by social exclusion.
In another earlier trial, which was published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal in May 2016, Carhart-Harris and colleagues found that psilocybin holds promise as treatment for serious depression.
More studies, however, are needed before the compound can be used for people. Scientists also warned people against picking magic mushrooms to treat their condition since the effects and responses may vary.
In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in January, researchers found that more than 10 percent of people who have taken magic mushrooms that contain psilocybin experienced their worst "bad trip" and have even placed themselves and others in danger.
"I wouldn't want members of the public thinking they can treat their own depressions by picking their own magic mushrooms. That kind of approach could be risky," Carhart-Harris said.