In this episode, I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Albert Garcia-Romeu, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins and a Guest Researcher at the National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Neuroimaging Research Branch, where he studies the effects of psychedelic drugs in humans, with a focus on psilocybin as an aid in the treatment of addiction. We discussed his work with psilocybin, what it means to be addicted, and what insight his work has given him into the mystery of consciousness. So, please enjoy this episode, with Dr. Garcia-Romeu.
You did some work in treating addiction to tobacco with the aid of psilocybin. Can you tell us a little about that study? Matt Johnson
How do you think psilocybin actually worked in creating those amazing results?
In this episode, I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Dennis McKenna, an ethnopharmacologist, research pharmacognosist, lecturer and author. He’s also the founder of the McKenna Academy and a board member at the Heffter Research Institute. We talked about psychedelics and consciousness.
So, let’s hear what Dennis McKenna has to say about human consciousness, including psychedelics’ role in our evolution.
We discussed: ethnopharmacologist, pharmacologist
Start with a discussion of consciousness. Mind/Brain duality. Universal consciousness. The hard question. What is consciousness, in your opinion?
The reality hallucination; brain creates reality
Default mode network as a filter
A fundamental property of nature?
In that context, what is a non-ordinary state of consciousness, like that which results from a psychedelic experience?
Disrupt neural gating (DMN); opens up what we have suppressed
Reset DMN, brain
When you say that plants and fungi can expand our consciousness, what do you mean by that?
Set and Setting; medicine; dose
What role did the plants play in the evolution of human consciousness?
Can we deliberately change and evolve our consciousness (individual, collective)? With plants/fungi, something else?
Stoned Ape Theory
Synesthesia as a basis of language; triggered by psilocybe cubensis
Language basis of consciousness, cognition
Share/transmit information/knowledge through time
2001 Space Odyssey, Monolith
We’re at the doorstep of a global transformation in human consciousness, yes? (Please explain)
When somebody says ‘higher consciousness’, what does that mean?
Any thoughts on neural correlates of consciousness? Under non-ordinary states of consciousness?
Teonanacatl – flesh of the gods
Book: American Holocaust
What are your thoughts on reality…what is real versus perceived?
What didn’t I ask?
Immersed in symbiotic relationship with the plants/fungi
Tools to help us discover what we already know
What’s next from you? What are you excited about?
McKenna Academy – psychedelic university
A place for learning, integrating, exploring these ideas
Help people learn how to think, not WHAT to think
Achieve their own consciousness
Remind people to remember to be astonished, experience wonder (nature)
In this episode, I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Sam Ko, owner of Reset Ketamine. We discussed his insight into consciousness while working with Ketamine and his East-meets-West approach to healing. This is also the first episode that is also published on my other podcast, The Stoned Ape Reports, which covers healing with psychedelic medicines. So, please enjoy this episode with Dr. Sam Ko.
Tell us about your practice, so, first, tell us about your practice, Reset Ketamine. Treatment resistant depression, PTSD, eastern-western approach to medicine
Ketamine is used to help treat suicidal ideation and prevent suicide, correct?
You mention that ketamine infusion treatment produces a dissociative experience known as a, “ketamine-induced non-ordinary state of consciousness.” Can you explain what that is? Eli Kope, Out of Body Experience
Have you had patients who experience a near death experience in treatment? Dr. Marshialle real NDEs and stories about them; compared reports to 15,000 reports from DMT, Ketamine, other substances;
How is ketamine’s effect on the brain and consciousness different from other psychedelic medicines?
Treatments allow one to access the unconscious part of the mind — memories, emotions, stories. What do you think is going on there which allows this experience to occur? Freud’s iceberg
Ketamine blocks the default mode network. What happens to one’s experience of consciousness when this occurs? Similar to deep meditators
Ego? Pollan’s book
How does that relate specifically to one’s consciousness?
How has your work with Ketamine shaped your idea of human consciousness?
Physical, mental, spiritual concentric circles?
Universal consciousness; connectedness
Carl Jung: dreams access universal consciousness
Bio-psycho-social medicine + spiritual
Can you share a couple stories of outcomes from ketamine treatments?
You mention that the spiritual part of us can get injured: what does that mean?
Anything else you want to share regarding consciousness? Healing with Ketamine? Other ‘plant medicines’? Your practice?
In this episode, I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Andrew Gallimore. Dr. Gallimore is a neurobiologist, chemist, and pharmacologist, with a focus on the relationship between psychedelic drugs, the brain, and consciousness as…
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?
This episode is a little different from what you’ve come to expect. I recently covered the Arizona Psychedelics Conference here in my home state of Arizona, hoping to learn from the insight gained by those who work in the healing world of psychedelic therapies. I had a chance to sit down with three incredible people who work in the field and get their ideas on human consciousness, based on their personal experiences and those with their patients and clients.
The first segment is with Kyle Buller, the co-founder of Psychedelics Today. Kyle has a BA in Transpersonal Psychology from Burlington College where he studied the healing potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness by exploring shamanism, plant medicine, Holotropic Breathwork, and psychedelic psychotherapy. We discussed his own Near Death Experience and what he learned about his own consciousness. You can learn more about his practice at www.settingsunwellness.com.
Transpersonal breathwork, Stan and Christina Groff
Vehicle to reach non-ordinary state of consciousness
Transpersonal layers, non-waking consciousness
NDE, and Kyle’s Experience
Access to new information; new view of the world; map of how the world worked
What is consciousness? Spirit? Body.
What does it mean to be alive?
Is the body a manifestation of a higher consciousness?
Non-ordinary states of consciousness, altered states of consciousness
The body is a receiver of consciousness, like a TV
Mind-body spirit connection; body experience produces emotions, mind changes
Cryptography of the human psyche
The second segment (at 48:50) is with Veronika Gold, co-founder, therapist, and consultant at Polaris Insight Center, San Francisco based clinic providing Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy We also had a great conversation on her clinic’s therapies, which are important to me, as a survivor of my son’s suicide, and she also shared her insight into human consciousness.
Ketamine, suicide and my story
Czech Republic, Revolution, Russian Invasion
Transpersonal Conference, Stan Grof
Holotropic breathwork and non-ordinary states of consciousness
Realization Process, Judith Blackstone
Non-ordinary versus Altered States of Consciousness
Ketamine’s insight into out-of-body or NDE
The third segment…isn’t here…I fat finger deleted it after the interview. So awful, because my conversation with Dr. Sam Ko was amazing. Dr. Ko is is a Board Certified Emergency Physician and founder of Reset Ketamine (www.resetketamine.com) in Palm Springs, CA. We really got into consciousness, layers of consciousness from the brain to human consciousness to universal consciousness. He really got me thinking and shed new light on my own perception of consciousness. I sure hope I can get back and re-do that interview.
So, please enjoy my conversation with Kyle Buller, followed by my interview with Veronika Gold.
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?
In this edition, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Marjorie Woollacott, author of the book, Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind, which she describes as both a scientist’s memoir and a research survey on human consciousness. Dr. Woollacott was a neuroscience professor at the University of Oregon for more than three decades and a meditator for almost four. She also has a master’s degree in Asian studies. Her master’s thesis was the foundation for her book. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and includes both research in neuroscience and testing the efficacy of alternative forms of therapy such as tai chi and meditation for improving both attention and balance in adults.
Get the book at Amazon.
We had a great conversation about her studies and experiences around consciousness, meditation, and event psi phenomena. Please enjoy this conversation with Dr. Marjorie Woollacott.
Questions we discussed:
Let’s start off with your story: your meditation workshop, the Swami, and how it all played with your being a Neuroscientist.
After that experience, you spent time observing your own mind during meditation. What were you able to observe? What did you learn from that?
You mention that mantras help to quiet the mind, letting thoughts go, even opens the filters to the non-local consciousness.
First, What is non-local awareness or consciousness?
How does this relate to paranormal experiences like NDEs?
I’m guessing your top-down view of consciousness would mean that consciousness is already out-of-body and these observations are merely new perspectives, filtered down into the mind?
Is there a link between paranormal experience and meditation? I’m curious about meditation being a window into consciousness, into my own consciousness, into the non-local consciousness. Is it? Can we exercise, modify, improve our mind/consciousness through meditation?
Is there a connection to Robin Cahart-Harris’ (et al) study of psychedelics using fMRI imaging that showed these hallucinogens actually slow down parts of the brain, actually freeing consciousness from the brain’s own filters? If so, how does that play into the top-down architecture of consciousness?
So, what is your notion of consciousness, how do you define or describe it? [the melding together of ‘Western science’ and ‘Hindu teachings’ on consciousness — how did you reconcile those two?]
You mention that, ‘All this is consciousness’ — can you expand on that?
How does it emerge in an individual, conscious being?
What about the ‘ego’? Thoughts on that? ‘Self’ is an illusion?
You’re a panpsychist? What does panpsychism mean to you — I hear a few different definitions.
You’re also an idealist, believing that the mind creates reality?
You describe how our nervous system filters all the input it receives, that it must do this. The brain also filters a greater consciousness, non-local awareness (infinite awareness)? Can you expand on that?
Can we access this non-local awareness?
How does the brain filter this?
What’s available to us if we don’t filter it? Can we turn the filter off?
Aldous Huxley’s, “Doors of Perception” — the mind filters the greater consciousness and is opened by psychedelics/mescaline. Any thoughts on that? [turns out he might’ve been wrong, according to Carhart-Harris’ findings.]
[given top-down design model] Does consciousness survive death? Does it change form, or does it persist?
What do you think about how neuroscience is taught in our universities? Have you seen an evolution of these studies and teaching in the universities as a result of your experiences and those of others? (DOPS)
In your own studies and in the study of consciousness/awareness/meditation, what about future discoveries or advances excites you?
This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Raphaël Millière, and our topic was Psychedelics and Consciousness. Raphaël Millière is a third-year PhD student in philosophy at the University of Oxford and an Ertegun Scholar, working under the supervision of Martin Davies. He is also affiliated to the Center for Subjectivity Research of the University of Copenhagen, as part of an external co-supervision agreement with Dan Zahavi. Additionally, he is a research member and coordinator of ALIUS, an interdisciplinary research group on altered states of consciousness and organized an interdisciplinary conference in Oxford on The Sense of Self.
As an introduction, tell us about ALIUS and it’s mission.
What are altered states of consciousness?
Any relation between dreaming and psychedelic-induced states of consciousness?
Let’s narrow the focus to psychedelics and consciousness.
First of all, Looking for the Self: Phenomenology, Neurophysiology and Philosophical Significance of Drug-induced Ego Dissolution, is amazing and way above my own cognitive abilities, but it presents quite a few questions.
Drug Induced Ego Dissolution (DIED, coincidentally): Can you please describe for us what that is and how this relates to consciousness? RENAISSANCE OF DRUG RESEARCH
SCIENTIFICALLY MEASURING THE DIED EXPERIENCE
Is this what psychonauts, those who partake in psychedelic drugs, call ego death?
You know, Timothy Leary did some real damage to the study of psychiatry and psychedelics. Do you and your peers make an effort to avoid mistakes he and his team made? TIMOTHY LEARY, EGO DEATH AND THE DISSOLUTION OF PSYCHEDELIC RESEARCH
What could be some possible benefits from experiencing ego dissolution? What could one take away from that experience? A CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE LATER ON BECOMES PROFOUND, TRANSFORMATIVE
THERAPEUTIC BENEFITS OF EGO DISSOLUTION
Why are you studying this? Why is it important to you, to anyone?
I’d like to know more about what you have discovered in the bridging of the phenomenology and neurophysiology behind a DIED experience.
I’d also like learn more about meditation and psychedelics and why those two are mentioned together. SELF EXPERIENCE IS ALTERED; ALTERS DMN (Default Mode Network in the brain) SIMILARLY; ISOLATING NEUROCORRELATES OF THE SELF IS DIFFICULT
IMPORTANT DISTINCTIONS; PSYCHS HIGHLY SENSORY AT BEGINNING; MEDITATION IS PURE AWARENESS, LESS DRAMATIC SENSORY INPUTS; MINIMAL AND NARRATIVE SELF
The challenge to the notion that consciousness always involves self awareness is interesting. Where do you stand on that? (Is this a good time to ask how you define/describe consciousness?)
Are you breaking away from the central self awareness test, “Something it is like to be…”? THERE IS NOTHING IT IS LIKE TO BE AN IPAD; BRAIN STATES THAT ARE NOT CONSCIOUS; SOMETHING IT IS LIKE ‘FOR ME’…; REDNESS, WRONGNESS. SELF AWARENESS = SELF CONSCIOUSNESS, OF ONESELF. SOMETHING IT IS LIKE TO BE ME. BACKGROUND SENSE OF SELF.
Can I assume that you believe there is a ‘self’? [versus Hume’s ‘flow of experiential moments’] NO SELF, NO EGO, NOT INTERESTED SOUL – SELF IS ORGANISM, BODY, STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS; HALLUCINATIONS OF ANIMALS AND WHAT IT ‘FEELS’ LIKE – SELF IS SIMILAR – WE FEEL IT; SURPRISES ME WITH HIS VIEW ON ‘SELF’
Is this tied to the default mode network? How does that relate to consciousness?
Is it a ‘rough and ready’ model of predictive processing (mentioned later)?
So, what IS that ‘boundary’ between self and world? Is it phenomenological, neurophysical? MIND ALWAYS TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF THE INPUTS; WHERE DO I FIT INTO THIS WORLD; SHIFT IN PERSPECTIVE; CREATION OF MODELS (ALTERED MODELS); BINDING INFO INCORRECTLY, NOT TO SELF. PERIPERSONAL SPACE, AROUND ME; DO PSYCHEDELICS BREAK THIS DOWN, ALTER IT?
You know, Timothy Leary did some real damage to the study of psychiatry and psychedelics. Do you and your peers make an effort to avoid mistakes he and his team made? [SEE ABOVE]
You mentioned Micro-phenomenology. How does that concept fit into a discussion on consciousness, and your work on DMT? ELICITING DETAILED EXPERIENCES OF DMT, ACCURATE ACCOUNTS; 4 STAGES – ACCELERATION; VISUAL (HALLUCINATIONS); THE BREAKTHROUGH, CONTACT WITH ENTITIES, NO LONGER GEOMETRIC;BECOMING CLEOPATRA; CONSCIOUS TRIANGLE
Your machine learning analysis of the Erowid trip reports is interesting. My son worked with machine learning as well. I know results are still to come, but any surprises or insights so far?
The “predictive processing theory of cognition”, which “views the brain as a prediction machine that models the causal structure of the world to anticipate future inputs”…Do these predictions happen before we’re aware of them? How does that play into consciousness?
How does the psychedelic experience play into that? Do these drugs alter that processing and modeling? (aid in depression and anxiety?)
Can we predict the psychedelic altered state of consciousness and maybe even mold it to our needs?
Perception is a ‘controlled hallucination’? Where is the line between reality and the models in our brains?
Most of the discussion about psychedelics and consciousness so far has been around ego dissolution. Do you have other observations on how these drugs can or do affect consciousness?
It was a great conversation. So, please enjoy Part 1 of our time with Raphaël Millière.