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Medicine Science Technology

First Evidence For Higher State of Consciousness Found (neurosciencenews.com) 288

New submitter baalcat quotes a report from Neuroscience News: Neuroscientists observed a sustained increase in neural signal diversity -- a measure of the complexity of brain activity -- of people under the influence of psychedelic drugs, compared with when they were in a normal waking state. The diversity of brain signals provides a mathematical index of the level of consciousness. For example, people who are awake have been shown to have more diverse neural activity using this scale than those who are asleep. This, however, is the first study to show brain-signal diversity that is higher than baseline, that is higher than in someone who is simply "awake and aware." Previous studies have tended to focus on lowered states of consciousness, such as sleep, anesthesia, or the so-called "vegetative" state. For the study, Michael Schartner, Dr Adam Barrett and Professor Seth of the Sackler Center reanalyzed data that had previously been collected by Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff in which healthy volunteers were given one of three drugs known to induce a psychedelic state: psilocybin, ketamine and LSD. Using brain imaging technology, they measured the tiny magnetic fields produced in the brain and found that, across all three drugs, this measure of conscious level -- the neural signal diversity -- was reliably higher. The findings have been published in Scientific Reports.
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First Evidence For Higher State of Consciousness Found

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  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @08:44PM (#54267001)

    Also known as 'lots of activity'. That may translate to *altered* state of consciousness, but calling it a *higher* state just tells me someone really likes their psychedelic drugs.

    Your brain trying to figure out what to do with random signals produced by chemical disruption of brain activity is in no way 'higher' consciousness, no matter how many drug users tell us it feels that way.

    • by pellik ( 193063 )
      So you're arguing that these drugs don't get you high?
      • That's actually somewhat interesting. Usually 'high' refers to some variety of euphoria, but my understanding is that the experience with psychedelics is qualitatively different.

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki@nosPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday April 20, 2017 @04:39AM (#54268169) Homepage

          but my understanding is that the experience with psychedelics is qualitatively different.

          It is. I can get high if I take too many pain pills and have a euphoric feeling. The whole idea for those of us on long-term use of pain meds is to "take it before you need it." If you miss that window, you end up taking more and it takes more to reduce the level of pain. Psychedelics though? I've been in LSD and psilocybin studies for migraine treatment because mine are so severe. I never got a high from taking them, rather I had an immense state of satisfaction and contentment in what I was doing and even in life in general. The general benefits were low at the dosing standard used, but some people saw huge improvements. Especially for people who were in it for cluster headaches.

      • No. That an altered state of mind doesn't in and of itself indicate that it is a higher state of consciousness. Even if said state of mind seems to make you more aware. Neither would a heightened sense of awareness be a "higher consciousness".

        A higher state of consciousness would necessitate that you be able to somehow observe.your "whole sense of being and instantaneous thought" as an entity unto itself, which again, more neurons firing at once isn't indicative of that either.

    • I kinda agree but ...

      Given less diversity aligns with being asleep or unconcious and more diversity aligns with being awake... I can see that higher diversity might be some kind of "super awake" state.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

        I can see that higher diversity might be some kind of "super awake" state.

        Talk to people who've practiced meditation for years. "Super awake" is a way to describe it, but it doesn't quite do it justice.

    • So, which drugs did you test, how often and what dosage, that you are such an expert on higher states of consciousness?

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      THIS ^

      while true; Thread.new { 1 + 1 }; end;

      Will create aclot of CPU activity but that does not mean its in any way useful.

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @08:45PM (#54267007)

    So what I'm curious about is if the extra activity is productive, or if it's just the firing of synapses without purpose.

    As an analogy, consider electrical short-circuits in a ball of unshielded wires with various currents applied, versus a properly laid-out circuit. Depending on how the various short-circuits in the ball line up one might see patterns, but those patterns do not accomplish anything. One might even see heat and light that are absent on the properly laid-out circuit, and one might see more power draw, but again, that might not mean anything advantageous is occurring.

    Last time I looked at the subject, oxygen supply and the ability to exchange oxygen between blood vessels and the brain was the limiting factor, more than any other factor. I'm curious if there are any other factors since found.

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @09:07PM (#54267093)

      I'd go with the "firing of synapses without purpose" hypothesis.
      It if was actually productive, evolution probably would have made it available to us without drugs. Psychedelics are not special, these are relatively simple molecules imitating neurotransmitters. So if tripping were so beneficial, it could probably be triggered through normal pathways, with the added bonus of being able to switch from high to baseline at will.

      • "It if was actually productive, evolution probably would have made it available to us without drugs."

        Evolution works if the traits is required for survival, allowing for breeding in the said environment. At a bacteria level, productivity helps beat the competition.
        With social animals like humans it is a bit more complex. Diversity helps the survival of the group, so even the least productive members have a chance as long as they play their cards well and get laid.

        In a wider sense, your logic is so
        • Diversity helps the survival of the group

          But evolution doesn't care about groups. It only cares about genes.

          Some drugs are made available to us via the evolution of plants, so why do they exist at all?

          Because the plants have a use for them. As a protection mechanism, for instance.

          • But evolution doesn't care about groups. It only cares about genes.

            Group selection [wikipedia.org] is a proposed mechanism of evolution in which natural selection acts at the level of the group, instead of at the more conventional level of the individual... As of yet, there is no clear consensus among biologists regarding the importance of group selection.

      • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:21PM (#54267477)

        Here is how to go about the research: identify at least one specific mental task that works better under the influence of each experimental substance, thereby establishing an objective standard for "higher consciousness." Then we can work backward and identify the changes in neutral activity that led to this improved performance on tasks.

        • identify at least one specific mental task that works better under the influence of each experimental substance

          Is there a specific mental task that works better under the influence of a placebo? :-)

      • by Poorcku ( 831174 )
        It if was actually productive, evolution probably would have made it available to us without drugs.

        this is just post-hoc evolutionist talk. "if telepathy or esp would be productive I am sure evolution, god, whatever, would have made it available". Except not. Evolution does not make things available, the mutations are random.perhaps not enough time has passed for evolution to sort it out. Perhaps, in the future LSD will be naturally produced by the body.
        • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @09:15AM (#54269001)

          I agree with you that we can't use the evolution argument every time. The reason I used it is :
          - The human brain is highly plastic, it constantly rewires itself. And the prevalence of mental diseases show that nature is trying new things with our brains. Some mental diseases actually have some positive traits, and some cause symptoms that can be partially reproduced using LSD (schizophrenia).
          - The body can already produce DMT, a powerful psychedelic.
          - Positive traits typically associated with psychedelics, like insight and creativity can offer a survival and sexual advantage. Someone who can more easily come up with novel techniques for feeding or defense against predator gets and edge over those who don't. He can also make beautiful things to attract mates, lead the tribe through their insights (and get all the best mates), etc...

      • I'd go with the "firing of synapses without purpose" hypothesis. It if was actually productive, evolution probably would have made it available to us without drugs. Psychedelics are not special, these are relatively simple molecules imitating neurotransmitters. So if tripping were so beneficial, it could probably be triggered through normal pathways, with the added bonus of being able to switch from high to baseline at will.

        Until the very recent (in evolutionary terms) formation of large social groups that could support the development of technology, a state of hyperactive brain activiy that consumes even more resources than the brain already does, would not have been something that was very beneficial and selected for thru evolution

    • So what I'm curious about is if the extra activity is productive, or if it's just the firing of synapses without purpose.

      I wonder that about the entire human race.

  • A more active state of consciousness does not equal a higher state of consciousness. You can readily come up with another test that would do similar, especially for men. Hook up their junk to electrodes and give them a series of complex questions to answer and each wrong answer generates a shock. I'll bet they reach a more active state of consciousness pretty dang quick, no drugs required, except maybe adrenal and some endorphins for the 'er' discomfort.

    In terms of higher human consciousness, you a really

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @09:02PM (#54267079) Homepage

    Poppycock. This stuff has been studied extensively for years, with copious FMRI modeling and psychological measures. See this article [nonsymbolic.org] or watch this video [youtube.com] for some more interesting results that don't rely on psychedelics (not that the results for psychedelics are wrong, mind you).

  • My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tylersoze ( 789256 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @09:16PM (#54267119)

    Personally I had a very profound experience on LSD. I became aware of the illusion that we have a unified consciousness. It started out when I noticed my right hand was moving of its own accord, and I had to "consciously" make it stop. I have this happen on mushrooms as well, but the experience became deeper when I become actually become aware myself as split left/right into two entities. I remember just sitting their slack jawed and told my wife "I think I'm experiencing something profound right now". It was a totally novel experience I can't even adequately describe or even really remember what it was *actually* like. It proceeded like this for a while and I eventually reached some sort of state where I somehow "knew" how consciousness arises from matter, I remember saying something like "this is what this is?" then I feel as if I was "breaking through" back into reality and my consciousness unified and the trip was over just like that. It was amazing, I can't wait to experience it again knowing what to expect, I was kind of caught completely unawares the first time. I'd actually like to record what I say the next time. I immediately started reading all I could about the psychedelic experience, ego death, etc.

    As long as you're in the right frame of mind and surroundings (set and setting) psychedelics are some of the safest drugs imaginable. I'd rather be around someone on LSD or mushrooms than alcohol any day. Like literally anything else, idiots that don't know what they're doing can hurt themselves or others if they don't do it properly.

    There's always the possibility my experience was just some sort of delusion I suppose. I really believe it does offer some insight into the nature of consciousness, something I've always been utterly fascinated by. It's doing something at the lowest level of neural pathways. It's just something you have to experience first hand otherwise you just have no room to say anything about it. The hard problem of consciousness seems like an even more intractable issue than the fundamental problems of physics. How something like consciousness can emerge from matter.

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      There's a nice CGP grey video on the subject https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
      No LSD involved but still something you might be interested in.

    • > I'd actually like to record what I say the next time.

      That's a great idea. Many years ago, I used to record sometimes and write a lot. I wrote some stuff for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) while in various states of consciousness. Like you, my friends an I had some rather profound experiences.

      Listening to recordings back then, and reading later what I wrote (and was well received by the NORML community) is enlightening. We discovered some profound truths such as "who

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      LSD has been known to cause permanent psychological ailments for which we have no cure. I wouldn't call it "some of the safest drugs imaginable" by any stretch of the imagination.
    • by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:54PM (#54267579)

      I remember seeing an interview with an artist who tried using psychedelic drugs. Under the influence, he made the most beautiful painting, with amazing colors and structure and profound meaning. He was soo amazed at the depth of his perception, and creativity.

      The next day, when he was sober again, he looked at the painting, and noticed he had painted the whole sheet muddy brown.

      • Worked better for The Beatles, Hendrix and Funkadelic I suppose.
      • Another anecdote, I heard a story of a guy who thought along the same lines and used a notebook to record his thoughts for reading after the trip. He was convinced it was all brilliant stuff. After the trip he read what he wrote, "orange juice".

    • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

      by slew ( 2918 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @03:21AM (#54268001)

      You have to remember that for many, "reality" is an illusion created by the visual cortex part of your brain. Since it takes time for your brain to decode the input from your visual senses in the visual cortex, in a way your conscious mind is interpreting the recent past as "now". Of course there are always "reactionary" processing from our reptilian brain that work on a faster pace (sound, touch, involuntary reflexes, etc) and these occasionally intrude on our quaint visual cortex consciousness view of "now" to give us the misguided impression that we can somehow anticipate the future (maybe a second or so, the feeling of deja vu or flinching before your see something).

      There is evidence that psychedelic drugs like LSD allow for additional intrusions from other parts of the brain into the visual cortex in an often uncoordinated or hallucinatory fashion which leads some to speculate that generates feeling of some sort of break with reality, or one-ness with universe as these novel interactions are interpreted by the visual cortex. Unfortunately, there is also some evidence that LSD also inhibits connections between the visual cortex and the parahippocampus which plays an important role in memory encoding. This might explain why memories of LSD trips are often fleeting leaving only vague impressions in their wake...

      If you associate the normal visual cortical view of "reality" as consciousness, maybe you might think of this psychedelic state which causes this disjoint amalgamation of signals in the visual cortex as some sort "higher" or "altered" consciousness, but given the apparent difficulties of recording and learning about perceptions that could be potentially distilled from this state, it's a stretch to say that any specific intrinsic knowledge about the mechanics of self perception could be learned or gained this way, but certainly for many it might enable a different way of looking at things (which might give you insight into something that you know about already or bridge many facts/skills/ideas you already have together into something clever or novel).

      As with many systems, it's generally very difficult to discover the nature of the system from within the system, but maybe a researcher armed with MRIs (and neural lace?) might be able to learn something about you and your thought processes by studying you when are tripping. That whole idea of somehow an untrained individual unlocking the knowledge of the universe crap while tripping is not bloody likely...

      On the other hand, just like the allegory of the caves [washington.edu], I suspect some that partake in LSD somehow develop the impression that it opens them up to a different type of perception of reality from which they do not want to return, but the sad fact is that it is simply a different reality, not "the" reality (you still don't "see" anymore than your senses, you just have a different take on them, a different perspective so to speak). Your brain is still looking a shadows on the cave wall (but maybe multi-colored and fancy with sound and light ;^)...

    • by vinlud ( 230623 )

      The things you describe sound very familiar, though I do not get these with LSD but by simple exercise of thought, some good parties, music, being in nature. The brain enters a stage of flow, yada yada. For everyone the way to reach this state of mind is different, harder for some then for others. Meditation, drugs, having a great partner, a good conversation or even just a good night of sleep, many roads are leading to Rome. Personally I cherish my ability to fairly easily achieve such a state enough to wa

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I recorded a session once.

      Previously we had such intensely profound discussions and realizations on LSD but come morning we never remembered them.

      So after borrowing a small dictation recorder (this was the 1980s), we set out to our usual spots of inspiration and had the expected insights, this time recorded for posterity.

      The actual tape recording? A marginally intelligible 60 minutes of semi-coherent laughter, babbling, "Yes! That's it!" and so on. No insights or discoveries, which wasn't what I remember

      • That is right. The insight that you get from LSD is that you cannot trust your mind when it is in altered state and that when it is in altered state it doesn't reflect reality. It is a very useful lesson. But you really only need to do it once to learn that.
      • My sense was that LSD just stimulated whatever part of the brain produces the psychological sense of profound experience and transcendental realization, it doesn't provide some increase in intellectual or philosophical intelligence at the time. You don't find out anything, it just feels that way.

        The brain is sadly susceptible to this sort of thing. The God Helmet is what really rams the point home for me. Put it on, have a transcendental religious experience. Take it off, party's over. That really calls into sharp doubt every religious experience anyone has ever had. Their brain was most likely just doing something faulty, in the absence of any contrary evidence.

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          I think the even simple similarity between descriptions of religious experience and chemically or stress-induced altered states (injury, starvation, heat/cold, meditation, etc) is enough to call them into question, and that's even if you're willing to even go halfway on the notion of some kind of metaphysical existence.

          I'm an atheist, so I think upfront that religious experiences are nothing more than neuropsychological experiences. You'd have to provide positive proof of the basis of metaphysical existenc

    • I noticed my right hand was moving of its own accord

      So what you are saying is that Dr. Strangelove was taking LSD?

  • higher levels in Discrete Individuals.
  • by spaceman375 ( 780812 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @09:34PM (#54267171)

    Study the medical aspects involved and you'll have lots of knowledge that is inapplicable to the experience of skydiving. This analogy is a pale example of how these studies really miss the point. And anyone who comments about these experiences without having tried them is truly blowing hot air with no valuable substance at all.
            I could describe in detail and pontificate for a decade and you would still not have any grasp of what these experiences are like. You simply cannot, and are being foolish if you think otherwise.
          And mushrooms (preferably as tea) are the best.

  • If you immediately know the candlelight is fire, then the meal was cooked a long time ago.

    (If this experiment really measures what it claims, drop some acid, read that sentence again, and see what happens.)

  • Happy 420.
  • They didn't test Soma [shmoop.com]?
  • The diversity of brain signals provides a mathematical index of the level of consciousness. For example, people who are awake have been shown to have more diverse neural activity using this scale than those who are asleep.

    Do we actually know that? I'm sure you see more brain activity in an awake person than an asleep person. But does more brain activity automatically directly correlate to higher consciousness? I guarantee if you are hooked up to an EEG and I smash your thumb with a hammer, you'll see

  • It's useful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @10:39PM (#54267349)

    Used responsibly, LSD is a phenomenal tool for introspection and "thinking about things from a higher plane". It's hard to describe to anyone who has not tried.

    Remove your consciousness from your life experiences, everyday minutia, your body's senses, and politics/history pegged to a timeline, and so on. Freed from these tethers, incredibly insightful things can be realized for the first time in the mind. After you come down, and you remember the experience, you will never view the world the same-old way again, but will process subsequent life experiences from an additional, fresh, and wholistic view-point. It is a marvelous eye-opener.

    Once you've "climbed the mountain" of a strong and positive LSD trip a few times, you will no longer need to take the drug to "get to that place", and to see things in this additional, new light. It is a breathtaking experience and changes your perspective forever. Well, for decades, at the least.

    * Pardon the slang and 'short-for' phrasing. I tried to make the point as concise as possible to anyone who hasn't tried it – an impossible task. *

    • Freed from these tethers, incredibly insightful things can be realized for the first time in the mind. After you come down, and you remember the experience, you will never view the world the same-old way again, but will process subsequent life experiences from an additional, fresh, and wholistic view-point. It is a marvelous eye-opener.

      Sounds like fun, but what if the fresh and holistic viewpoint is objectively worse than the old sober one ?

  • by kiviQr ( 3443687 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:43PM (#54267539)
    This bares a question - does "vegetative" state + LSD == normal state?
  • Some of the comments in this thread have been kind of offending me. But that offense has made me think.

    A bunch of comments above from people who've done LSD talk about the mind-blowing experiences they've had on it, and put down people who don't want to try it, or who poo-poo it, as some kind of beings of lesser consciousness. As someone with no interest in doing LSD, those comments kind of offend me, largely because the mind-blowing kind of stuff they describe sounds like the kind of state I used to operat

    • The primary effect of LSD is that it breaks down the brains ability to perceive and evaluate those perceptions. This is not experienced as a loss of ability (internally) as many of the processes involved in perception are inhibitory in nature. If you switch off the negative signals about possible perceptions that do not match the incoming data from the environment then suddenly the brain sees a lots more hits, and there is a massive spike in reinforcement - everything feels cool as fuck and makes perfect se

      • The experience of un-evaluated perception of reality.

        This phrase really jumped out at me as an accurate way of describing the kind of "wow insightful" mindset I'm sometimes (less often nowadays) able to get into, always without drugs. I see that as a very positive thing. It feels like the ability to, metaphorically, move around and manipulate conceptual space, to look at ideas from new perspectives, take them apart, put them back together again, freely and without any constraints. Writing this now kind of reminds me of the stereotypical first stage of a busin

      • "My take on it is that LSD provides access to a type of experience that is unavailable to most people: psychosis."

        Very accurate! People confuse the altered state with "Free thinking" and a "higher plane", but it is more closely related to psychosis.
  • How can a lower consciousness recognize a higher consciousness - does not work, world would look different.

    See the current POTUS as an example of failure.

  • I read the headline and thought this was going to be an article on the latest claim from President Trumpster. What's with all the science?
  • You can dump nitrous oxide into an engine and sure, it will run like hell.

    That doesn't mean it's beneficial.

  • In a lot of ways, hallucinogens are like artificial schizophrenia (I have experience with the three drugs used in testing). What does the neural signal diversity of a schizophrenic look like?
  • Higher state no, different state yes ! Yes chemicals can cause all kinds of brain activity. To suggest that they are higher is foolish. A man who drops acid and jumps out an eighth story window thing he is a sea gull and can fly is not in a higher state of consciousness. He is in a scrambled state full of nonsense and error.

Take an astronaut to launch.

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