In this episode, I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Katrin Preller, a Visiting Assistant Professor at Yale Medical School and a team member at the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics at the University of Zurich, where she received her PhD in Psychology and Neuroscience. Her research interests are centered around the neuropharmacology of emotional and cognitive processes such as social cognition in health and psychiatric illnesses, as well as (pharmacological) neuroimaging analysis methodology, including studies with psilocybin and LSD.
We had a great conversation and covered neuropharmacology and LSD, altered states of consciousness and even a little philosophy. Please enjoy this episode with with Dr. Katrin Preller.
Why the interest in LSD, psilocybin and altered states of consciousness? What do the Swiss know about LSD anyway? 🙂 Loved your joke about mountains, chocolate…LSD.
Most of what I read covers your studies with LSD and some psilocybin. What about other psychedelics?
You found that LSD alters directed connectivity within CSTC pathways* in humans. Can you explain what that means and what significance it has?
* LSD reduced connections between regions of the brain that govern cognitive processes while simultaneously increasing connectivity in brain networks associated with sensory functions.
Thalamus is the door of perception?
5-HT/2A receptors — can you explain, in a layperson’s terms, what is happening at these receptors normally, and then how LSD affects them, and propagates to other brain functions/experiences — sensory, psychologically, etc.?
Subjects assigned ‘meaning’ with LSD (music). Can you expand on that and what it…means?
In the general study of phenomenal consciousness, there is the concept of qualia — what seeing red feels like. It’s Chalmers’ hard question. So, does LSD’s effects on the serotonin receptors provide insight into these phenomenal experiences? Seems like it might. If we can watch those experiences — self awareness/reporting of those experiences — change (like that wolf image), doesn’t that shed light on phenomenal consciousness?
What, if anything, have your studies on LSD/psilocybin and altered states of consciousness taught you about what human consciousness is, how it works?
What are the direct effects of LSD on human consciousness?
What role does the CSTC loop play in consciousness? Mental disorders?
One article quotes you as saying that LSD reduces the borders between the experience of our own self and others, and thereby affects social interactions. Can you expand on that notion?
It seems that many users of psychedelics report back feeling connected to other, to the universe, to nature, etc. Is that what’s going on here?
There’s not ACTUAL connectedness. It’s a feeling of being connected, internally, right?
What insight, or opinions, do you have on ego or ‘self’?
What are you working on now, or what’s next for you?
What, if any, breakthroughs in your field of study do you see coming in the future?
We had a great conversation and covered consciousness, split-brains and the mind-body problem, and more. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Elizabeth Schechter.
What is Psychological unity? Unity of Consciousness?
Let’s get a baseline to work from here. How do you define consciousness? What IS consciousness? Mind v. Person.
Duality? Physicalism? Etc.
What is the relationship of a person to their mind/brain?
Please give us a little background on what ‘split brain’ is.
How does this play into your views on ‘unity’ of consciousness and psychology?
Does this result in two, independent consciousnesses? (2-person claim)
Perspectives versus Agents versus Thinkers? What are the differences there, and how do those differences play into understanding consciousness?
In a split brain, parts of the brain are still integrated, or synchronized, right? Like vision? What else? [two separate human beings sitting next to each other would also be getting the same inputs, right?]
How does that play into all of this?
I’m curious about the implications of split brain and mind-brain duality. What, if any, observations have been made with split-brain patients that might shed light on that and the binding problem?
Is the single ‘mind’ still bound to both sides of a split brain?
Can (does) one side of the brain ask, “Something it is like to be the other side of my brain?”
“I think, therefore I am” and other tests of individuality and consciousness? Have those been done, experimentally?
The mirror test (animals) on a split brain subject?
We can cut the connection (corpus callosum) between the two hemispheres. Can we introduce a third (artificial) ‘hemisphere’?
What is a consciousness versus a person: conjoined twins, DID, split brain?
What are you currently working on? What can we expect from you in the near future?
In the field of consciousness (or other areas), what studies or potential breakthroughs excite you?
In this episode, I discussed Connectome Harmonics and neural correlates of consciousness, specifically under the influence of LSD, mindfulness meditation and dream sleep with Dr. Selen Atasoy. Dr. Atasoy’s research explores brain dynamics in different states consciousness, including sleep, meditation, and psychedelic states, as well as in psychiatric disorders, by analysing fMRI and MEG data within the mathematical framework of harmonic waves. She has extensive experience working in experimental and computational neuroscience exploring neural correlates of consciousness. Currently, she is working as a postdoctoral researcher at Hedonia Transnational Research Group, University of Oxford.
We had a great conversation.. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Selen Atasoy.
Questions we discussed:
I often ask my guests to share their own ‘definition’ of consciousness. Given your studies, including those on LSD and the brain, what have you learned about consciousness and do you have a definition or description of what consciousness is?
Let’s talk about your theory, “Connectome harmonics”
First, can you give us a high level, layman’s overview of the theory and the studies behind it?
What’s vibrating in the brain, what are these waves and their substrate?
You mentioned, ‘when you silence the mind, you increase the power and energy of brain activity.’ What’s going on in the brain when you ‘silence the mind’? Is that the ‘intrinsic energy’ of a brain state?
You found that low frequencies decrease in energy with LSD, high frequencies increase in energy with LSD? Is that right?
Low frequencies showed reduced energy > ego dissolution and emotional arousal? [default mode network — that gives more evidence to the idea that the DMN is the ‘ego’?]
Higher frequencies showed increased energy > positive moods
You mention that LSD appears to be activating more brain states simultaneously, that it’s a reorganization of brain states, as the brain enters ‘criticality’, that barrier between order and chaos. Example: marching soldiers > playing kids, group of people dancing individually but interacting, flexibility, organization
Order and chaos of what? Harmonics? Energy?
LSD shifts the brain towards criticality?
What are the forces in the brain that keep it on the ‘order’ side of criticality? What happens if/when the brain passes over criticality into chaos? Is that where we see brain disorders or mental illness/disease?
Using your ‘Connectome Harmonics’ model, what kind of predictions can you make? Or, how else can that modeling be applied to consciousness as you defined it earlier?
You also observed the minds of meditators, right? What did you find there? Any similarities to psychedelics?
What did you learn from these observations? Any surprises?
Any significant differences between the two? Any significance in the differences?
You mentioned in a video that you use Cahart-Harris’ fMRI data. I laughed at ‘tripping in a scanner’. I don’t think when Timothy Leary coined ‘set and setting’ with LSD that he had going through a scanner in mind for the setting. Did anybody have a ‘bad trip’ during the experiments? If so, were any scans and observations made of these ‘bad trips’. I wonder if they crossed over criticality into chaos?
What’s in your future, what else will you be studying? [psychiatry, patients] Any implications of your studies, models, and theories?
Anything I haven’t asked you? Anything else you’d like to share or spread the word on?
My guest is Dr. Scott Husband of The University of Tampa. Dr. Husband’s primary field of study is behavioral neuroscience with an emphasis on comparative neuroanatomy and cognition. He has studied higher-level visual processing, the role of dopamine in attention, and dopamine-hormone interactions in various species of birds.
His research goals are to contribute to the understanding of how neural circuits and neurochemistry contribute to complex perception and cognition, and to investigate brain evolution by studying the brain and the behavior of non-mammalian species.
We had a great conversation, touching on brain architecture, asking the philosophical question, is there ‘something it is like to be a human’, and the effect of language on the evolution of consciousness. Please enjoy this conversation with Dr. Scott Husband.
How is the neural architecture of human brains both similar and different from other animal brains?
Do these similarities and differences have effects on consciousness? If so, how?
What role may consciousness have played in evolution, from fish to mammals to humans? At what point do different states, or layers, of consciousness appear? Is there a correlation between emerging consciousness and brain evolution (e.g. neocortex)?
What can we say about brain structures and circuits and whether there is a certain requirement for consciousness?
What kinds of experiments are being done in comparative cognition in other animals to try and get inside the “black box” of animal minds, and draw conclusions about their mental lives?
What are your current hypotheses on the consciousness of animals? Some have it, some don’t? Which ones? Which ones are really intriguing? How about the ‘degree’ of consciousness?
How is that observed or measured? What have you identified in your own work?
Any special insight into the ‘hard question’ of consciousness given your studies of animals?
Nagel: ‘Something it is like’ to be a bat. Maybe the question should be, “Can a bat…or a bird…or a bee…understand something it is like to be another conscious being?” Is there some kind of reflexive condition here necessary to establish that a creature is conscious?
What are some of your personal thoughts and opinions on consciousness in general given your studies? Where do you stand, philosophically, on consciousness?
What will you be working on in the future?
Do you see any significant outcomes or discoveries coming in the study of animal consciousness?