Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mo Costandi - Magic mushrooms in the neuropsychoanalytical framework

The Guardian (UK) recently posted this article by Mo Costandi in his Neurophilosophy column on the most recent research into the use of psilocybe mushrooms in neuropsychoanalysis. Costandi highlights some recent research from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and from the British Journal of Psychiatry.

One of the interesting findings is that the psychoactive chemicals seem to dampen the parts of the brain associated with executive function, what the Freudian model might think of as the ego. This likely results in the diminishing of personal identity and the expansion of worldcentric and cosmocentric consciousness.

[NOTE: I originally had posted the whole article, but Mr. Costandi felt I was stealing his material. This is yet another reason to support open access to science research, so that the public is not forced to rely on journalists for access to new and useful research.]

Magic mushrooms in the neuropsychoanalytical framework

Psilocybe cubensis on sale in north London. Photograph: Martin Godwin/Guardian 
  This week, researchers from Imperial College London publish two separate studies of the effects of psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient of magic mushrooms. The first appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, and I've written a news story about it for Nature. It's one of a small number of studies using brain scanning to examine the neurological effects of the drug. The second, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, examines the effects of the drug on the quality of recalled memories.

The past decade has seen a resurgence in psychedelic research, not least because psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs have potential therapeutic value for various psychiatric conditions. Here, I'd like to focus on another aspect of the new studies. Robin Carhart-Harris, lead author on both of the papers, interprets the findings within the framework of neuropsychoanalysis. I briefly describe this emerging movement, and how it might be used to explain the psychological effects of psilocybin.
Read the whole article.

Reference: Carhart-Harris, R. L. & Friston, K. J. (2010). The default-mode, ego-functions and free-energy: a neurobiological account of Freudian ideas. Brain, 133: 1265–1283. DOI: 10.1093/brain/awq01
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