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. John Webber. Dr. Webber is a practicing Psychiatrist whose patients have experienced past-life regression and near-death experiences. He is also the author of The Red Chair, the story of John and his patient, Judy, who discovered past lives and a connection with spirituality, which led them to the healing they had previously thought impossible. We discussed near-death experiences and other psi phenomena as they relate to consciousness Please enjoy this episode with Dr. John Webber.
Questions we discussed:
Consciousness precedes matter, universal consciousness, source of physical being
Brain is the filter, narrow bandwidth
Near death experiences (NDE)
Hypnosis, past life regressions
What kind of shift happened in your mind when presented with this evidence?
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 welcome back previous guest, Riccardo Manzotti, along with his friend and co-author, Tim Parks. We discussed their new book, Dialogues on Consciousness, in which the two discuss the nature of consciousness.
TIM PARKS, novelist, essayist and translator, is the author of nineteen works of fiction, including Europa, shortlisted for the Booker. He is a regular contributor to both The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books. He lives in Italy, where he teaches literature and translation studies at IULM in Milan
RICCARDO MANZOTTI is a philosopher, psychologist, and robotics engineer who has written more than 50 scientific papers and several books, among them The Spread Mind: Why Consciousness and the World Are One. A former Fulbright Visiting Scholar at MIT, he is now visiting professor at UAEU University (Emirates).
We had a great conversation. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Riccardo Manzotti and author Tim Parks.
Please tell us about these dialogues between you two. How did they come about? Tim, you want to start us off with that?
Tim, I’m curious about your curiosity with consciousness. Where did that come from?
Riccardo, any new revelations in the book for you, anything that builds on the Spread Mind, beyond it?
Okay, let’s start off like your book. What is consciousness?
You use the term “internalist”, whereas I’m used to terms like “physicalist” or “materialist”. Is there a difference?
You can’t deduce “mind” from looking at neurons. What does that tell you/us?
Is mind within the skull? What about memories and information? How exactly are memories stored and recalled?
If the mind is not internal, how do changes in the physical/internal brain affect consciousness? What is the connector between internal brain and external mind?
Red/white square experiment…
It’s fascinating to essentially eavesdrop on your conversation in this book. Over the years that you two had these conversations, did either of you experience a change in how you understand consciousness?
What do you two agree on, and where do you disagree with each other?
I’d like to ask you about “The Now.” Dreams, hallucinations, even thoughts in my mind, are made up of experiences I’ve already had. But don’t I experience those in my consciousness right now? Even if the sun shined eight minutes ago, aren’t I experiencing it, phenomenally, right here, right now?
Sensory events are not simultaneous, right? Light hits my eyes before sound enters my ears. My brain puts the model together, combines the consciousnesses of multiple properties of an object (say, a train). Then, I experience the train in my now. Isn’t that “the now” of all of my phenomenal experiences? No? There is no “now”?
The body facilitates, or selects, the objects and their connected experiences. What is different in this selection/facilitation process during altered states of consciousness, such as dreams or psychedelics or meditation?
Somebody asked you, Tim, about the properties of objects floating “through the air” to the brain. That sounds too literal of a way to describe this. But let me put it another way. I hear about the brain being like a radio receiver, and the transmitted signal is a greater, universal consciousness that we tune in to. The brain as a receiver sounds compatible with Spread Mind. Is it? Anything there? Do objects “transmit” their properties via a universal consciousness medium? Is there a source?
So, what is the ego? What is one’s self?
What’s happening when I have a thought? How does that relate to objects? And what about creativity or inspiration?
Do I have any control at all over my thoughts, my actions, my desires?
Are you two still having these conversations? Is there more to come for us fans of consciousness? What other topics are you exploring?
Looking to the future of our understanding of consciousness, what are you two excited for, what breakthroughs or discoveries or advancements?
In this episode, I had the honor of speaking with cardiologist Dr. Pim van Lommel. For more than twenty years Dr. van Lommel has studied near-death experiences (NDEs) in patients who survived a cardiac arrest. In 2001, he and his fellow researchers published a study on Near Death Experiences in the renowned medical journal The Lancet. He, then wrote the bestseller Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience in 2007.
We had a great conversation and covered Enhanced Consciousness, NDEs and more. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Pim van Lommel.
Questions we discussed:
You are known for your extensive work with NDEs; however, your book is titled, Consciousness Beyond Life. It’s a book about consciousness. So, if it’s okay with you, let’s start there.
Medical Doctors generally see consciousness as either on or off. In your first experience with NDE’s in 1969, you saw consciousness differently, as more than just that waking consciousness. Is that correct? Can you expand on that for us?
So, the idea — that NDEs lead you to — is that there is a special state of consciousness, an enhanced consciousness?
And this is technically, medically impossible during cardiac arrest, but observed/reported.
What is the difference between normal, waking consciousness and enhanced consciousness? [no time, no space, non-local].
Are there other ways to access enhanced consciousness, such as Psychedelics?
Speaking of psychedelics, you mention DMT a few times in your book, as having a role in consciousness. What role in consciousness do you think DMT plays?
You sought to answer the question, “What is the biological basis of consciousness?” Within that question, though, is a pretty significant assumption — that there is a biological basis — which you point out, has never actually been proven…we all just kind of ran with it. So, how do you answer that question today?
You say that the brain facilitates consciousness, it does not produce or create it.
So, then, what is consciousness and where does it come from, then?
When/how does consciousness bind to the brain? Mind-brain binding?
When does that happen in a new human life?
Is Quantum Mechanics the ‘missing link’ between the brain and consciousness? Might we find a particle, the conscioutron? Gravity?
You have an analogy of the brain being like a radio – a relay station – tuning into the Consciousness channel, with waking consciousness being a single channel and enhanced consciousness being all channels at once. Can you expand on that a little?
Aldous Huxley, and his book, Doors of Perception, describes the brain as a filter for a cosmic Consciousness, Universal knowledge. Is there any correlation there to your idea of the brain’s tuning into consciousness?
“The content of an NDE suggests that consciousness may be nonlocal.” What is a nonlocal consciousness?
In quantum physics, you mention, that everything is connected. Is it that way for our consciousnesses? Is that endless consciousness?
DNA is the ‘mobile phone number’ of consciousness, or IP address?
Does non-local consciousness enable connections between minds?
Collective consciousness is unlimited, and connects each individual with everything else, past, future, everything. Is there a way to access this greater Collective consciousness?
What about the living and the dead, can they be connected?
In your view, then, what is death, then, a simple change in consciousness?
Would it be possible to bind, or affix non-local Consciousness to a new brain? Perhaps, a mechanical brain? DNA
I think you reference this in your book…but you are familiar with the study on brain activity in rats…just before cardiac arrest…the burst of activity, with George Mashour and others.
What do you make of this activity as it relates to you ideas of non-local consciousness? Is that a sign of consciousness releasing and re-binding to the body, before and after the NDE?
Since writing the book, have you seen any new information or recent discovery out there that is causing you to either second-guess or reaffirm your ideas on consciousness?
What breakthroughs do you see coming in the study of consciousness and NDEs?
What else, what haven’t I asked you, in the context of consciousness? What’s next from you?
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?
In this episode, I have the honor of speaking with Dr. Susan Blackmore, who is a psychologist, lecturer and writer researching consciousness, memes, and anomalous experiences. She is a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth, as well as a TED Talk lecturer, blogger for the Guardian, and often appears on radio and television. Her book, The Meme Machine (1999) has been translated into 16 other languages; more recent books include Conversations on Consciousness (2005), Zen and the Art of Consciousness (2011), Seeing Myself: The new science of out-of-body experiences (2017) and a textbook Consciousness: An Introduction (3rd Ed 2018).
We had a great conversation and covered out of body experiences, mind-body duality — or more accurately, monism, and more. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Susan Blackmore.
Questions we discussed:
So, where do you stand on consciousness? What is it?
What is happening in the brain? How do you explain these experiences?
What implications do these have on our understanding of consciousness?
Her advice: Enjoy the experience!
In an article in Psychology Today, you discuss the notion of being conscious only when you’re aware of your consciousness, like the light in the fridge. Are we only conscious when we’re aware of our consciousness? [sleep]
If not, what are we in those moments?
Does brain activity change? Any other insights into this idea?
Any relation to ‘altered states of consciousness’, i.e. is it a spectrum or some other direct relation?
What else, what haven’t I asked you?
What’s in your future, what else will you be studying or publishing?
New book on Memes to follow the 1999 publication, “The Meme Machine”.
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 had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Cassandra Vieten, who is the President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and a scientist at the Mind-Body Medicine Research Group at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute. Dr. Vieten is a licensed clinical psychologist and has been with IONS since 2001, previously serving as its Executive Director of Research.
We had a great conversation and covered consciousness, interconnectedness, spirituality and much more. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Cassandra Vieten.
What are your views/definition of consciousness? Universal consciousness? Mind-body, the binding problem. Survival. Etc.?
Is Consciousness a primary component of the universe, along with matter and energy?
I saw your video from your talk on the Science of Interconnectedness.
Your team has conducted experiments on interconnectedness with some pretty incredible results? (Examples?)
What criticism have you received about the experiments? Have they been independently repeated?
Is ‘interconnectedness’ a shared consciousness? What are the hypotheses about how this works, physically, if that’s even a legitimate question.
You mention that the body itself is interconnected (cells). How? Is that a level of consciousness? Is that an extension of that what connects us to each other?
A focus of yours is spirituality in psychological treatment, correct? How, if at all, does that tie into consciousness? Is there an overlap or connection between consciousness and spirituality?
In your research into spirituality, including meditation and other practices, what have you discovered about consciousness?
What role does consciousness have in psychological healing, in the practice of a psychologist?
I’ve spoken to a few people who study the effects of psychedelics on the brain. Often, those who experience psychedelics describe something like this interconnectedness. Have you looked into that at all? Any insight? Spirituality?
What are the eventual, or hopeful, practical uses that might come from your studies, both in consciousness and psychology?
Are we already experiencing those benefits, without knowing the reason? How are people using these abilities now, while not even realizing it?
What are the hot studies going on at IONS, what else is coming? Pixar, VR
What should we look for from your future work? Ions discovery lab; [link to it]; ions-x (moon shot); help ppl who are working toward positive change (climate, prison) and equip them with tools for transforming worldviews;
What breakthroughs do you see coming, that really 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?