Hallucinations explain where your consciousness comes from.
Shrooms, LSD, and even deep breathing techniques can cause you to hallucinate.
New science shows exactly what is happening in your brain and how it can unlock
a key to your consciousness. Scientists have administered psychedelics to
volunteers and scan their brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging and magnetoencephalography and found decreased blood flow to the default mode
network. The default mode network is made up of the medial prefrontal cortex,
the posterior cingulate cortex, the inferior parietal lobule, the lateral temporal
cortex, the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, and the hippocampal formation.
This network keeps your brain working efficiently. It's evolved to filter out the
vast amount of information coming to your brain by predicting what you need
and getting rid of what you don't. If you are met with a new situation,
your default mode network will use past experiences to make quick decisions
using less energy. It creates the human capacity for self reflection, planning
the future, worrying, and reason. It is where the brain creates the story of who
you are as an individual. Common psychedelics such as psilocin or lysergic
acid diethylamide are all tryptamines. So as serotonin, which is found naturally
in your body. These are organic compounds with a ring of six atoms attached
to another with five atoms which all have a high affinity for a receptor found in
the outermost layer of your brain called the 5-HT2A receptor. Here, we have
the serotonin in your body and here we have LSD. The tryptamine core
scaffold of the LSD molecule is similar to that of the serotonin in your body.
It is attached to an ergoline scaffold connected to a diethylamide substituent.
Here we see because of its similar shape to serotonin, the LSD molecule
binding to your 5-HT2A receptor. And due to its chemical composition,
it will bind for longer than serotonin ever would naturally in your body.
When psychedelics bind to the 5-HT2A receptor, a cascade of cellular
biology causes the default mode network to decrease. This leads to ego
dissolution, aka feeling less separation from others and from nature itself.
In fact, FMRI scans of those on psychedelics is similar to experienced
meditators who can effectively turn off their default mode network and
temporarily vanish their ego. Other times when the default mode network
is decreased is during deep prayer, overwhelming experiences of awe,
for example, looking at the Grand Canyon, or even near death experiences.
A decrease in the default mode network can come with hallucinations,
but why? On the left is a visual depiction of the neural networks in the brain
of someone given a placebo pill. On the right is a visual depiction of the
neural networks in the brain of someone tripping on psilocybin. With decreased
action from the default mode network, your brain is no longer working efficiently.
It now has to make sense of increased information and starts filling in the blanks
with hallucinations and altered perceptions in order to cope. Living plants might
start to grow faces. The brain will never stop trying to make sense of the world,
but now it is using new parts of the brain. In fact, people who are colorblind
report being able to see certain colors for the first time while on psychedelics.
A child's brain is actually similar to an adult brain on psychedelics. As an adult,
you have learned through experiences and pruned your neurons to deal efficiently
based on past experiences. For kids, most experiences are new. When they
encounter a situation, their brain is not efficient, looking more like this graph on
the right than this graph on the left. This explains their curiosity, slower processing,
obsession with nature, and why they're better than adults at some intelligence
tasks involving creativity, or just straight up why kids act like they're on drugs.
Existential distress and a fear of dying usually means an overactive default mode
network. Obsessive self-reflection, a fear of losing consciousness or the ego.
This is why in recent years, psychedelic therapy has become a popular treatment
for terminal illness and coping with end of life fear. Addiction can be related to
the story you have built about yourself, leading to some promising studies using
psychedelic therapy to decrease addiction to smoking or alcohol. Indigenous
Americans have long used the psychedelic peyote to treat the alcoholism
introduced by colonizers and plagued communities since the genocide from white
Europeans. Studies that use hallucinogens as therapeutic tools have professionals
who lead the trip and place importance on the set and setting. The stakes are high
when letting this much information into the brain and can lead to a bad trip.
But one thing is for certain, hallucinogens are helping us understand how the brain
works, learn more about the human consciousness and our potential therapies for
a variety of mental illnesses. Links to all of the resources for this video are below.
I encourage you to read. I think this year has been for me, at least about dealing
with mortality and reading research and studies on human consciousness has
helped me. Also, I'll put a link below to our podcast Sidenote where we take
controversial subjects and study the science behind them. And finally,
make sure you're subscribed for more weekly science videos, peace.
1. How and what causes a hallucination?
2. How can the brain not know what’s real and what isn’t?
3. When people hallucinate, do they actually believe what they see or do they know that they're hallucinating at the time?