Research shows that LSD stimulates the semantic networks of the brain, leading to increased conceptual flexibility....

Research shows that LSD stimulates the semantic networks of the brain, leading to increased conceptual flexibility….

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Research shows that LSD stimulates the semantic networks of the brain, leading to increased conceptual flexibility. Their next step is to map these findings against neural imagery to see what parts of the brain actually light up.

http://neurosciencenews.com/language-lsd-neuroscience-4883/

44 comments

  1. Wow! What a find Gideon Rosenblatt. I can’t wait to dive in. ūüôā David Amerland do you mind if I post this to the Google Semantic Search Community. I can explain… :]

  2. p.s. Gideon Rosenblatt plus this comes in a moment when I am finishing a blog post called the Semantic Networks We Live (and Write) By. I guess I will have to edit a lot. ūüôā

  3. I wonder if it’s related to effect in which LSD suppresses sensory filters in the brain that filter information not directly related to survival.

    With all that novel information being made conscious, perhaps the brains semantic centers work harder to attempt to ‘name’ all the new sensations and experiences.

    Man, I wish I could work in paid experiments like these, I have so much experience, and am extremely articulate (I wonder if the ‘reorganization’ effect of the comedown overdeveloped my language skills) – I would probably be an ideal test subject for reporting under the effects of LSD as I struggled, successfuly, to retain my language abilities while I tripped in my twenties.

  4. One of my favorite activities while tripping was to listen to Skinny Puppy. I became deeply fascinated by their strange use of word association, wracking my brain – while high – to try and understand what the hell they were talking about.

    I was, of course, tickled to learn that psychedelics were a major influence in their music, but I also wonder if listening under the effects of LSD for so long contributed to the development of my own semantic weirdness.

    Here’s a sample I think captures the ‘far afield’ word salad the article talks about:

    “Worlock”

    (Now is the only thing that’s real.)

    Binge

    Cringe 

    On the fringe

    (The police used to watch over the people. Now they’re watching the people.)

    Sloppy

    Binge

    Cringe

    (Now is the only thing that’s real.)

    Sloppy

    Mincing 

    Eye-dropping 

    Biopsy

    Cyclops overlooks

    Optic options

    Rotten showstopper 

    Skin-popper 

    Babbler, dabbler

    Self-confessed criminal tore pen in vain 

    Instant still spellbound 

    Game stock talk back rock

    Re-encounter incident 

    Subsistence inexistent

    (Now is the only thing that’s real.)

    Non-committed 

    Unwitted 

    Oblivious 

    Habitual 

    Resistor 

    Roughed-up edge fluent nudge pre-collect ignition 

    Motivation 

    Inexistent

    Wasted views

    That’s all they see blue¬†

    Hot blood guilt optic nerve 

    With the right attitude

    You will succeed blue 

    Self-abusive 

    Recluse 

    Too late for me 

    Make 

    Shifting peace 

    Unsettling

    Crazy 

    Doing crazy things 

    Keep your eyes open 

    Soft-spoken changes nothing 

    A view so cruel

    A view

    Dog’s body comatose¬†

    Torchlight roast

    Disinterest 

    Disinfect 

    Retold 

    Impressed by possession 

    Insiders know

    Refresh 

    Detained contest 

    Offer is pure 

    Sure tonight

    Freeze in time or shadows climb distractions override 

    Instincts involved 

    Over and over 

    Wasted

    (Do you, don’t you

    Want me to make you?

    It’s comin’ down fast

    But don’t let me break you

    Tell me, tell me, tell me the answer

    You may be a lover

    But you ain’t no dancer)

    Wasted truth 

    Why call at all blue 

    Hot lines

    Eventual decline 

    With the right attitude 

    You will succeed blue 

    Resent that discontent 

    Sidestep 

    Define 

    The state of things 

    So far 

    Crazy things

    Soft-spoken

    With your eyes open

    You know soft-spoken changes nothing 

    A view so cruel (profits)

    __________________

    Link to the song (cover by Android Lust, which I feel is superior – and if you really wanna torture your brain, listen on 1/2 speed):

    https://youtu.be/M63h8Rm_wWM

  5. Here’s another excellent example (in both these samples, I feel like SP refers to their own wild semantic associations within the lyrics themselves – in “Worlock” with the line, “Babbler dabbler” and in “Death” with the repeated phrase “doesn’t mean a thing”.

    _________

    “Death”

    Holding his hands. 

    Dream the whole week. 

    Radiance. 

    Hissing rodents speak.

    Elective evil once started. 

    Shot struck home. 

    So it goes.

    Inches towards flattened back. 

    On all fours. 

    Drawn and racked. 

    Doesn’t mean a thing.

    Nature perverts itself. 

    So it goes. 

    So what the hell? 

    Let it grow. 

    Resist so full of haste coming sneer (clear). 

    Piss in blood. 

    No one should ever have to.

    Cut. 

    Assemble. 

    Resembled. 

    Played out wording. 

    Disturbing. 

    Quiet saying. 

    Relaying.

    A message raising. 

    Cain’s revenge.¬†

    Got a few. 

    No fucking whacked. 

    House of cards. 

    Dealing smack. 

    Crimson folding.

    Driving told. 

    I’m never holding one thing back.¬†

    Credit full of nothing. 

    Slither. 

    Here the one thing’s back.¬†

    Licking dogs. 

    No hook. 

    No song. 

    Feeling high. 

    Fantasize.

    Wonder why. 

    Suck them dry. 

    Choppy waves. 

    Take a dive.

    Crash. 

    Enable. 

    Disabled. 

    Effect not carried. 

    No power in. 

    Quiet playing. 

    Re-saying.

    Never more and never again. 

    Distort the monomaniac delivering the blow. 

    Core. 

    Rotted bone. 

    Distort the monomaniac. 

    Black mass held upon the radio. 

    Doesn’t mean a thing.¬†

    Be it what or ever could. 

    Doesn’t mean a thing.¬†

    Sinister creation. 

    Doesn’t mean a thing.¬†

    Evocation of the dead. 

    Moses forbidding it. 

    Doesn’t mean a thing.¬†

    Doesn’t mean a thing.

    Worm like ticking aren’t worth shit.¬†

    We play upon the things we fear. 

    The smell is foul.

    Where does it fit? 

    Screw yourself. 

    Go screw yourself. 

    No one should ever have to.

    How do you sleep when it’s still alive ?

    Never too deep. 

    Take a look inside

    https://youtu.be/zlUbiTbZp-k

  6. I’m glad that you found it interesting, Teodora Petkova. I’ve never actually done LSD actually, but I think that entheogenic plants (and other human-made compounds) are an important way to explore the contours of human consciousness. In this sense, it is similar to brain injuries, which researchers in the US have embraced more fully. That’s why research like this interests me.

    Let me know when you publish your piece. Sounds very interesting. Also, I’ll ping you later on a piece I plan to write this week about some new research on the way the brain encodes meaning.

  7. In this sense, it is similar to brain injuries, which researchers in the US have embraced more fully.

    On a side note, perhaps a preponderance for portmanteaus and puns particulately imparts articulation.

  8. Wait, Pan Darius Kairos, are you saying it suppresses filters for information not directly related to survival, or do you mean that it suppresses the information that is directly related to survival? If the latter, I could see how that lack of internal tension would potentially free up resources for other purposes.

  9. Teodora Petkova go for it! That’s really relevant and very much what we should be thinking about. ūüôā

  10. Gideon Rosenblatt awesome share ūüôā

  11. Tks, David Amerland.

  12. are you saying it suppresses filters for information not directly related to survival, or do you mean that it suppresses the information that is directly related to survival?

    Gideon Rosenblatt‚Äč

    The brain has filters for filtering out information it deems not directly related to survival. We are awash in information, far more than we can consciously process, and many basic survival tactics (like running away from predators) would not be possible if we were consciously processing all, or even a significant fraction of, the information available to us from our environment. This information does not vanish, however, it makes up the majority of what we call our “subconscious”.

    One of the effects of LSD (and probably most psychedelics) is to temporarily disable, or mute, these filters so that the user consciously experiences a much larger range of sensory stimuli. So called “hallucinations” (which aren’t really hallucinations) result from this effect. While it allows us to become aware of a larger sensory world, it does not impart the ability to understand or make sense of all this additional information, thus the tendency to become disoriented and confused during the experience. Only with practice (and deliberate focus on understanding) is one able to gain real insight, as opposed to the “woo” that users are often associated with (which is just a failure to integrate the additional information in any sort of meaningful context).

    What I wonder, in relation to this article, is if the semantic activity is a result of, or related to, the temporary suspension of these filters, as the brain attempts to compensate by rapidly forming associations in an attempt to ‘normalize’ all the new input.

  13. i knew i was smarter for some reason

  14. Hmmm, I wonder if these studies could help train deep learning AI’s.

  15. Pan Darius Kairos deep learning is a term that refers to the physical structure of convoluted neural networks. It doesn’t actually refer to learning and they aren’t automatically AI in the broader sense of the word, they are machine learning networks that exhibit superficially intelligent behavior in strictly delineated large data sets.

    Referring to your previous comment, “running away from predators” is not instinctive. It is a learned response. What is instinctive is the body’s neurochemical preparation exhibited via the “fight or flight” response.

    I agree with what you said regarding the effect of psychedelics but not with how you explained it. They do not necessarily negate a “filter” – filtering is what happens when the brain applies perception to data in order to interpret it. Perception is created using a number of specific elements: memory of past events that are similar to what we experience, knowledge, expectations, emotional states and current level of training (physical and mental), plus our own sense of our capabilities. All of these are represented by overlapping centers in the brain. Psychedelics activate many more than the brain considers necessary which is why we experience a broadening of perception and a sense of increased awareness.

    As far as semantic activity and associations are concerned the brain cannot experience anything it cannot somehow model and that includes dreams and hallucinations. In order to model something it needs to compose it which means it needs to draw from the continuous semantic space where all knowledge is stored and create it in a meaningfully composed state. Semantic activity always occurs. The question usually is to what extent. Connections are made based upon computed interactions within the associations of specific neural states. Some are naturally weakened because they are rarely used. Others are strengthened. By activating a much wider range the brain in this case uses additional and unexpected associations that are weakly associated with particular meanings but which now, within the mental state created by a wider activation of neural centers, acquires fresh significance.

    Nice conversation you guys got going here.

  16. /article/do-psychedelics-expand-mind-reducing-brain-activity/

    Despite decades of scientific investigation, we still lack a clear understanding of how hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), mescaline, and psilocybin (the main active ingredient in magic mushrooms) work in the brain. Modern science has demonstrated that hallucinogens activate receptors for serotonin, one of the brain‚Äôs key chemical messengers. Specifically, of the 15 different serotonin receptors, the¬†2A subtype(5-HT2A), seems to be the one that produces profound alterations of thought and perception. It is uncertain, however, why activation of the 5-HT2A receptor by hallucinogens produces psychedelic effects, but many scientists believe that the effects are linked to increases in brain activity. Although it is not known why this activation would lead to profound alterations of consciousness, one speculation is that an increase in the spontaneous firing of certain types of brain cells leads to altered sensory and perceptual processing, uncontrolled memory retrieval, and the projection of mental ‚Äúnoise‚ÄĚ into the mind‚Äôs eye.

    The English author Aldous Huxley believed that the brain acts as a ‚Äúreducing valve‚ÄĚ that constrains conscious awareness, with mescaline and other hallucinogens inducing psychedelic effects by inhibiting this filtering mechanism. Huxley based this explanation entirely on his personal experiences with mescaline, which was given to him by Humphrey Osmond, the psychiatrist who coined the term psychedelic. Even though Huxley proposed this idea in 1954, decades before the advent of modern brain science, it turns out that he may have been correct. Although the prevailing view has been that hallucinogens work by activating the brain, rather than by inhibiting it as Huxley proposed, the results of a recent imaging study are challenging these conventional explanations.

    The study in question was conducted by Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris in conjunction with Professor David Nutt, a psychiatrist who was formerly a scientific advisor to the UK government on drugs policy. Drs. Carhart-Harris, Nutt, and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the effects of psilocybin on brain activity in 30 experienced hallucinogen users. In this study, intravenous administration of 2 mg of psilocybin induced a moderately intense psychedelic state that was associated with reductions of neuronal activity in brain regions such as the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).

    The mPFC and ACC are highly interconnected with other brain regions and are believed to be involved in functions such as emotional regulation, cognitive processing, and introspection. Based on their findings, the authors of the study concluded that hallucinogens reduce activity in specific ‚Äúhub‚ÄĚ regions of the brain, potentially diminishing their ability to coordinate activity in downstream brain regions. In effect, psilocybin appears to inhibit brain regions that are responsible for constraining consciousness within the narrow boundaries of the normal waking state, an interpretation that is remarkably similar to what Huxley proposed over half a century ago.

  17. Effectively, psychedelics inhibit the inhibitors of consciousness, which is consistent with my (and Huxley’s) experience.

  18. The example of running from predators was purely illustrative, to convey the concept that the brain relegates all sensory information (well, almost all anyway) which isn’t immediately useful to survival secondary, subconscious status, in order to conserve computational resources.

  19. Pan Darius Kairos I was kinda hoping you wouldn’t say that because your experience is subjective (unless you’re a scientist) and Aldous Huxley was a writer writing in the 50s when science knew nothing about brain plasticity and the prevalent wisdom was that the brain reached its cognitive peak around age 23.

    The study you cite does not say what you suggest. Quite the opposite in fact. If you check David Nutt’s account of it (to save you going through the paper itself which uses a lot of jargon) he says: “We found that under LSD, as compared to placebo, disparate regions in the brain communicate with each other when they don‚Äôt normally do so. In particular, the visual cortex increases its communication with other areas of the brain, which helps to explain the vivid and complex hallucinations experienced under LSD, and the emotional flavour they can take.” (you will find it here: https://goo.gl/RDaehw)

    The areas of the brain where a restriction of a sort takes place is in the blood flow to the brain’s default neuronal state (https://goo.gl/F9HCHZ) – the part of it which creates the ego construct of your identity which is why the sense of self is lost when tripping. Interestingly a similar thing happens during the meditative state and when intense focus is applied (such as snipers for example).

    Depressants inhibit consciousness (alcohol is a good example). Psychedelics enable it by always activating more brain centers and there is no such thing in the brain as an “inhibitor of consciousness” that would act against our ability to survive and it makes no sense either in terms of evolutionary biology or evolutionary psychology.

  20. Pan Darius Kairos I’m sorry but an illustrative example that is wrong is a wrong illustration of something you’re trying to explain. The brain processes all sensory information as a primary source of data not a secondary one and whether you’re conscious of it or not, it gives it priority because sensory data from the environment is critical to survival.

    What you’re suggesting, i.e. a mechanism that assesses all primary sensory data and sorts it into important or not so important in order to save computational resources is in itself computationally intensive.

    The brain accepts all sensory input as primary and sorts it based upon priming (i.e. the mental state of awareness that prepares the brain for action based upon the subject’s situational assessment) and context.

    You understand these are more than just opinions. I spent three years deep in the latest neuroscientific research while writing my latest book and I have a background in chemical engineering and quantum mechanical flow processes. Getting the science right is key.

    You can interpret a study to fit in with what you believe in a classic case of confirmation bias but that doesn’t mean that this is what the study actually reveals and anyone who thinks that a something Huxley said 70 years ago is going to trump neuroscientific research is only looking for ways to confirm their own belief system, not looking for a means to better understand the brain and how it works.

  21. David Amerland apparently failed to read this part, oh well:

    In effect, psilocybin appears to inhibit brain regions that are responsible for constraining consciousness within the narrow boundaries of the normal waking state, an interpretation that is remarkably similar to what Huxley proposed over half a century ago.

  22. This is super interesting. That first study that Pan Darius Kairos pointed to was from 2012, and notes “Hopefully, follow-up studies will provide an explanation for these discrepant findings, and will settle the debate over whether hallucinogens act by increasing or reducing brain activity.”

    scientificamerican.com – Do Psychedelics Expand the Mind by Reducing Brain Activity?

    Then, in the interview that David Amerland is referring to from last year, there seems to be some more explanation for the discrepancy:

    We found that under LSD, as compared to placebo, disparate regions in the brain communicate with each other when they don’t normally do so. In particular, the visual cortex increases its communication with other areas of the brain, which helps to explain the vivid and complex hallucinations experienced under LSD, and the emotional flavour they can take.

    On the other hand, within some important brain networks, such as the neuronal networks that normally fire together when the brain is at rest, which is sometimes called the ‚Äėdefault mode‚Äô network, we saw reduced blood flow ‚ÄĒ something we‚Äôve also seen with psilocybin ‚ÄĒ and that neurons that normally fire together lost synchronization. That correlated with our volunteers reporting a disintegration of their sense of self, or ego.

    In other words, there seems to be a reworking of the networks during the trip, so that some networks are connected (or synchronized) in new ways and others are suppressed.

    I’ve done some work with a guy here in the Seattle area named Joe Dispenza and he’s really into mapping brain activity during deep states of meditation. One of the things he’s been able to show is that in moments of deep spiritual bliss, the EEG charts go into a kind of coherence, where the brain waves tend to become more synchronized across the brain:

    http://meditationasheville.blogspot.com/2009/12/brainwave-coherence-during.html

  23. It occurred to me that this song, by the aptly named Infected Mushroom, is rather apropos.

    It’s pretty straight forward, if a bit on the nose (on this topic):

    Before I change again

    Remind me the story

    That I don’t go insane

    Breaking it down:

    Before I change again (new/novel sensory information)

    Remind me the story (give me words/narrative/language/labels)

    That I don’t go insane (become confused/disoriented by the input)

    Happily, this also triggered something I remembered about the lycanthropy myth and psychedelics.

    We know now, that myths of lycanthropes (people who can transform into animals, the most popular being the werewolf) originated in mediaval Europe from people who took psychedelics, especially mushrooms. But why?

    I’ve experienced a pre-verbal state under psychedelics, one where I lost all access to human language, but could still make sounds (grunts, sighs, screams, etc.) It was a very ‘feral’ feeling state, although I still felt like I was capable of reasoning, so long as I didn’t do it verbally. That is, I didn’t lose my intelligence, just my ability to communicate in words, and felt very much like being both man and beast at the same time.

    In this light, the song:

    Before I change again (turn into a pre-verbal “werewolf”)

    Remind me the story (give me language and words with which to express myself)

    So I don’t go insane (become a non-human, animal, lycanthrope)

    It’s worth noting that lycanthropy was not merely seen as a physical transformation into a half animal, as popularized by Hollywood, but was also seen as a form of ‘madness’ (mental illness or insanity).

    In short, I propose that myths of werewolves originated from people tripping on drugs, losing their ability to speak (what makes us human), and generally behaving as a feral animal would.

    This is explored in thge movie Altered States, where the protagonist transforms into a pre-verbal primate creature.

    Language is the opposable thumb of the brain ūüėČ

    Anyway, the video:

    https://youtu.be/WxhTbxMSvT0

  24. As an experienced psychedelic user I am not sure if “removal of filter” statement is true. On LSD the world becomes an awe inspiring fractal, geometric caleidoscope of visual, sensory, auditory and other sensations. Divisions between senses as we know them disappear. Alltogether the experience is certainly not “recreational” but to a scientist and a thinker an awe-inspiring journey into unimaginable realms of consciousness, in short a religious experience.

  25. “As an experienced psychedelic user I am not sure if “removal of filter” statement is true…Divisions between senses as we know them disappear…”

    Although the second statement actually refers to synesthesia, which is another effect that occurs on psychedelics, I still find it funny that these two statements appear in the same sentence.

    Carl Jung‚Äč – the brain uses a filtering system to sort “relevant” (survival related) information from non-survival related information. It’s not perfect at this process, but it must be pretty good, because here we are.

    That information which doesn’t appear in your conscious awareness instead becomes part of your subconscious.

    On LSD and other psychedelics, more of that information is allowed to rise to the level of conscious awareness, thus the intense fractal, kaleidoscopic visuals and dream like experience.

  26. Pan Darius Kairos, are you saying that if it was not for the sensory “filters” or perhaps, insufficient development of our primitive cerebrum that we are unable to perceive universe as it “really is” and serotonin receptor agonist-type psychedelics “open” our perception by removing those survival-promoting filters ( after all an ape wandering and staring in bewildered awe at the wonders of universe hardly would care to feed, fight or procreate, let alone flee predators) or maybe catapults out nervous systems towards higher evolutionary stadia of development when we can perceive more, kind of like catapulting a mollusk into a human level of consciousness?

  27. Carl Jung‚Äč – basically, yes.

  28. A recent study suggested LSD cures depression…..who knew

  29. Forest usually turn up some weirdly wonderful variety’s ūüôā

  30. Get an illustrated book.

    Just read a study yesterday about using psilocybin extract to treat depression.

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