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.

We discussed:

  1. 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
  2. How do you think psilocybin actually worked in creating those amazing results?
    1. What is the key to breaking an addiction? 
    2. Ego dissolution; mystical
    3. Other psyches and addiction: ibogaine/opioids?
    4. Cognitive behavioral therapy; Counselling; 3 months
  3. Does psilocybin help with addictions of all kinds? Alcohol? Gambling? Etc.?
  4. Can you tell us about dosing psilocybin for treatment of addiction?
    1. Is it just a pill the patient takes, or is there more to it? See above
  5. What other long-term effects did you notice in your patients? Spirituality? Mystical effects? Other changes?
    1. Any relationship between dose and mystical effects? Challenging experiences and dose, i.e. a bad trip?
    2. Any comment on the relationship between the mystical experience and one’s consciousness?
  6. How is psilocybin metabolized in the human body? Did you administer doses based on body weight?
    1. [how do these measurements relate to a single mushroom?]
  7. What about other psychedelics, such as LSD, Ayahuasca? You’ve recently published some papers on Kratom? “Kratom” — how do you pronounce that one (krat-um)? Do these also help with addiction?
  8. What insights do psychedelics give, through altered states of consciousness, into their underlying neurobiological mechanisms?
    1. What are the neurobiological mechanisms of consciousness?
  9. Let’s step out into the philosophical aspect of consciousness, given your insights into non-ordinary states of consciousness. 
    1. What are your thoughts on trying to answer the Hard Question of Consciousness — why the phenomenal experience of, say, seeing a red apple?
    2. Is consciousness a function of the brain, of our hardware? 
    3. Mind/body duality?
  10. What else? What haven’t I asked? Center for Psych and Consciousness Johns Hopkins; 
  11. What’s next for you, what are you excited about?
      1. Unlimited Sciences collaboration; real world psilocybin use; 3,000 enrolled;

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

  1. Start with a discussion of consciousness. Mind/Brain duality. Universal consciousness. The hard question. What is consciousness, in your opinion?
    1. The reality hallucination; brain creates reality
    2. Default mode network as a filter
    3. A fundamental property of nature?
  2. In that context, what is a non-ordinary state of consciousness, like that which results from a psychedelic experience?
    1. Disrupt neural gating (DMN); opens up what we have suppressed
    2. Reset DMN, brain
    3. When you say that plants and fungi can expand our consciousness, what do you mean by that?
    4. Set and Setting; medicine; dose
  3. What role did the plants play in the evolution of human consciousness?
    1. Can we deliberately change and evolve our consciousness (individual, collective)? With plants/fungi, something else?
    2. Stoned Ape Theory
      1. Neural plasticity
      2. Epigenetics
    3. Synesthesia as a basis of language; triggered by psilocybe cubensis
    4. Language basis of consciousness, cognition
    5. Share/transmit information/knowledge through time
    6. 2001 Space Odyssey, Monolith
  4. We’re at the doorstep of a global transformation in human consciousness, yes? (Please explain)
    1. When somebody says ‘higher consciousness’, what does that mean?
  5. Any thoughts on neural correlates of consciousness? Under non-ordinary states of consciousness?
  6. Teonanacatl – flesh of the gods
    1. Book: American Holocaust 
  7. What are your thoughts on reality…what is real versus perceived? 
  8. What didn’t I ask? 
    1. Immersed in symbiotic relationship with the plants/fungi
    2. Tools to help us discover what we already know
    3. Cognitive partners
  9. What’s next from you? What are you excited about?
    1. McKenna Academy – psychedelic university
    2. A place for learning, integrating, exploring these ideas
    3. Help people learn how to think, not WHAT to think
    4. Achieve their own consciousness
    5. 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.

We discussed:

  1. Tell us about your practice, so, first, tell us about your practice, Reset Ketamine. Treatment resistant depression, PTSD, eastern-western approach to medicine
  2. Ketamine is used to help treat suicidal ideation and prevent suicide, correct?
  3. 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
  4. 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; 
    1. How is ketamine’s effect on the brain and consciousness different from other psychedelic medicines?
  5. 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
  6. Ketamine blocks the default mode network. What happens to one’s experience of consciousness when this occurs? Similar to deep meditators
    1. Ego? Pollan’s book
  7. How does that relate specifically to one’s consciousness?
  8. How has your work with Ketamine shaped your idea of human consciousness?
    1. Physical, mental, spiritual concentric circles?
    2. Universal consciousness; connectedness
    3. Carl Jung: dreams access universal consciousness
    4. Bio-psycho-social medicine + spiritual
  9. Can you share a couple stories of outcomes from ketamine treatments?
  10. You mention that the spiritual part of us can get injured: what does that mean?
  11. Anything else you want to share regarding consciousness? Healing with Ketamine? Other ‘plant medicines’? Your practice?

Dr. Selen Atasoy - The Consciousness PodcastIn 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: 

  1. 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?
  2. Let’s talk about your theory, “Connectome harmonics”
    1. First, can you give us a high level, layman’s overview of the theory and the studies behind it? 
      1. What’s vibrating in the brain, what are these waves and their substrate?
      2. You measured energy and power of the brain states using connectome harmonics, yes?
      3. 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?
      4. You found that low frequencies decrease in energy with LSD, high frequencies increase in energy with LSD? Is that right?
        1. 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’?]
        2. Higher frequencies showed increased energy > positive moods
        3. 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
          1. Order and chaos of what? Harmonics? Energy?
        4. LSD shifts the brain towards criticality?
        5. 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?
    2. 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?
    3. You also observed the minds of meditators, right? What did you find there? Any similarities to psychedelics?
      1. What did you learn from these observations? Any surprises?
      2. Any significant differences between the two? Any significance in the differences?
  3. 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?
  4. What’s in your future, what else will you be studying? [psychiatry, patients] Any implications of your studies, models, and theories?
  5. Anything I haven’t asked you? Anything else you’d like to share or spread the word on?