Universiteit Leiden

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LIBC Colloquium

Thursday 12 May 2022
Pieter de la Courtgebouw, 1A01 & via Zoom

The empirical study of altered states of consciousness to identify relevant neural correlates of consciousness

Altered states of consciousness (ASCs) can be induced by psychoactive substances or non-pharmacological methods. The joint study of experimentally induced ASC phenomenology and changes in resting-state fMRI connectivity constitutes a research opportunity to relate changes in subjective experience to underlying biophysical mechanisms. Here, I present the results of meta-analyses to establish dose-response relationships of pharmacologically induced ASCs based on the Altered States Database (www.asdb.info) and their comparison to the experiences during non-pharmacologically induced ASCs. Next, I present a comparison of multiple resting-state fMRI datasets, originating from different research groups, where ASCs were acutely induced during scanning, including the pharmacological induction with LSD, MDMA, Amphetamine, Cocaine, and THC as well as comparison datasets with non-pharmacologically induced ASCs of sleep, perceptual deprivation, and flicker light stimulation. The use of a detailed thalamic parcellation allowed to test for the modulation of specific thalamo-cortical connectivity patterns. The observed findings challenge current models on the role of thalamo-cortical interactions for the emergence of ASC symptoms, i.e. hallucinations. We consider these results as important steps putting forth the proposal of neurophenomenology (Varela, 1996), where the experience-specific connectivity change can be seen as biological marker of that experiences.

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