Summary: A recent study has delved into the research concerning altered states of consciousness, comparing the effects of psychedelics to meditation and hypnosis. The study, conducted by the University of Zurich, aimed to understand the neural correlates of these states and how they might be applied in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.
Diving Deep into Altered States: A Comparative Study on Psychedelics, Meditation, and Hypnosis
A paper published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging by researchers at the University of Zurich has sought to compare various altered states of consciousness, ranging from the use of psychedelics to meditation and hypnosis. The study utilized resting state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging and employed a machine learning approach to assess the predictive value of the data.
The researchers noted that while both pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods of inducing altered states of consciousness are gaining relevance in psychiatric treatment, no study had directly compared their neural correlates. Their findings revealed that no single network was significant across all four methods of inducing altered states. Additionally, they found distinct connectivity patterns between pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. When comparing hypnosis and meditation directly, they observed differences in functional connectivity. However, psilocybin and LSD showed no significant differences when compared directly but did exhibit distinct behavioral-neural relationships.
The study’s conclusion emphasized the importance of understanding the mechanisms of action of altered states of consciousness. This understanding could be pivotal in leveraging these effects for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Nathalie Rieser, one of the study’s researchers, highlighted that their team has extensive experience in studying altered states. She mentioned that while people often report similarities in experiences induced by hypnosis, meditation, or psychedelics, the neurobiological understanding of these states is still evolving.
The research did not involve a single experiment but analyzed datasets from four separate experimental trials. These datasets were collected at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich using the same MRI-scanner. The psychedelic studies involved participants who received psilocybin, LSD, or a placebo. In contrast, the meditation and hypnosis studies involved experts in the respective fields. Rieser noted that even though these methods induce overlapping subjective effects, the underlying brain changes are distinct.
This research adds to the growing body of studies on psychedelics. Recent studies have explored how psychedelics activate the Default Mode Network and the potential benefits of microdosing psychedelics.[Source: High Times]
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