Study participants bravely took LSD and ketamine in the name of science.
Scientists have found the first evidence of a higher state of consciousness and, unsurprisingly, it was in the brains of people who were tripping.
For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Sussex reanalyzed brain scans of healthy volunteers who took one of three psychedelic drugs: ketamine, LSD, or psilocybin, the active compound in shrooms, or a placebo. (A team from Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff collected the initial data.)
The scans looked for tiny magnetic fields produced in subjects’ brains to measure neural signal diversity, or the complexity of brain activity. The diversity of brain signals is a mathematical index for the level of consciousness; people who are awake have more diverse brain signal activity than people who are asleep, under anesthesia, or in a vegetative state, for example.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that people who got the drugs were thinking more philosophically, or that this is a “better” brain state; just that their brains operated at a different, higher level than normal.
“During the psychedelic state, the electrical activity of the brain is less predictable and less ‘integrated’ than during normal conscious wakefulness—as measured by ‘global signal diversity,'” Anil Seth, co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex, said in a release. “Since this measure has already shown its value as a measure of ‘conscious level,’ we can say that the psychedelic state appears as a higher ‘level’ of consciousness than normal—but only with respect to this specific mathematical measure.”
The team wants to confirm its results with more sophisticated methods but they’re cautiously excited, especially because this study could help inform discussions about medically supervised use of the drugs.
And in what the release notes is “a striking coincidence,” this study was released exactly 74 years after Albert Hoffman, who synthesized LSD in 1938, conducted his first self-experiment with the drug. April 19, 1943, is known as “bicycle day” for Hoffman’s bike ride home after that fateful acid trip.