Monday, January 30, 2012

EEG of Jhanas II

From, four meditators were monitored with EEG while practicing rupa jhanas (i.e. the first 4 jhanas) and arupa or formless jhanas (the next 4 - or more - jhanas) as well as the practice of  energy or "psychic power."

The results strike me as being all over the map, but as they put it, this is very provisional and they need a bigger sample.  Many of the scans appear to differ from Leigh Brasington's brain on jhana, the research that motivated me to start this blog.  EEG was limited to 30 Hz, thus missing some of the important gamma effects.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Psilocybin: Help with Depression, Decreased Connectivity

An article in the Guardian, "Magic mushrooms may help with depression, say leading scientists" turned me on to two pieces of research.

One, "Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin," shows some evidence that "the subjective effects of psychedelic drugs are caused by decreased activity and connectivity in the brain's key connector hubs, enabling a state of unconstrained cognition."  This might add somewhat to the general thrust of a post several days ago, "Reduced Coherence in Meditation."  So both meditation and psilocybin might share this characteristic of decreased connectivity.

The second study, "Implications for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study with psilocybin," provides "evidence that psilocybin enhances autobiographical recollection, implying that it may be useful in psychotherapy either as a tool to facilitate the recall of salient memories or to reverse negative cognitive biases."

EDIT: Time Magazine gives a few more tidbits from the first piece of research above, i.e. "Two regions that showed the greatest decline in activity were the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More On Meditating in an fMRI Machine

By way of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche's Tergar website, Cortland Dahl recounts his experience meditating with pain inside an fMRI machine.  The findings demonstrate the old Buddhist story of the second arrow:

"When an untaught worldling is touched by a painful (bodily) feeling, he worries and grieves, he laments, beats his breast, weeps and is distraught. He thus experiences two kinds of feelings, a bodily and a mental feeling. It is as if a man were pierced by a dart and, following the first piercing, he is hit by a second dart. So that person will experience feelings caused by two darts."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Call To Further Open Up Research on Psychedelic Drugs

Former U.K. government drugs adviser Prof. David Nutt of Imperial College London has said that “overwhelming” regulations should be relaxed to enable researchers to experiment on mind-altering drugs.

Nutt calls for legalizing magic mushrooms.  Certainly Portugal's drug policy with 10+ years of legalization for personal amounts of pretty much every recreational drug has been an overall success, although I don't run into many people who are even aware of that particular situation.  Maybe we need a Portugal awareness movement.

My view is that at minimum we need to consider Stan Grof's idea of having legally approved centers where anyone who can pass certain basic physical and psychological tests could have access to a psychedelic experience in a safe environment.  In my view, it's just too important an experience to ignore, with too many positive implications for society.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reduced Coherence in Meditation

In the abstract "Reduced functional connectivity between cortical sources in five meditation traditions detected with lagged coherence using EEG tomography," researchers found decreased coherence during meditation, which is interesting to me because historically so many studies seem to have shown the opposite, i.e. high coherence in meditation.

They get into some interesting speculation here:
"The globally reduced functional interdependence between brain regions in meditation suggests that interaction between the self process functions is minimized, and that constraints on the self process by other processes are minimized, thereby leading to the subjective experience of non-involvement, detachment and letting go, as well as of all-oneness and dissolution of ego borders during meditation."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Piracetam - Psychedelic Catalyst - II

Reporting on a second experiment with piracetam and psilocybin.

Last time around I waited until I was coming down a bit, and the results were great.  This time I decided to go ahead and dose the piracetam (1/2 gram) at the same time as the mushrooms (1 gram), also adding one softgel capsule of Cognitex, a product that is a grab bag of "cognitive support" type nutrients including a number of choline enhancing nutrients as well as vinpocetine, a smart drug in its own right.

Spectacular enhancement of the psychedelic effects.  I would be tempted to say that the effects were magnified by a factor of, I don't know, maybe 2-6 times (probably a doubling, similar to other MAOis).  One of the most "sparkly" clean clear upbeat trips I've had, with strong visual effects.

I would normally hesitate to even refer to a 1 gram (technically 0.91 grams) dose as a "trip," but with the piracetam this amount becomes a big deal, a very big deal.  I suspect the choline and vinpocetine of the Cognitex may have added to the enhancement of the piracetam (much later, I am doubting this).  James South wrote a research-heavy article about piracetam where he suggests that other nootropics or even caffeine potentiate piracetam's effects, although I suspect that while logical, this statement is somewhat speculative.  Probably more important is that this time I took the piracetam before the body began to process the psilocybin, so there was more substance to enhance.

Really nice.  Only thing out of the ordinary is that I did notice I sweated a bit, something I believe I've experienced on high dose trips in the past.  (I have not experienced this on subsequent trips.)

Yeah.  That's pretty amazing.

So I'd have to classify this experience like a high dose trip.  It is slightly different, but a really nice flavor.  But there is some intensity, a kind of excruciating pleasure associated with an experience like this, and I find that nitrous oxide is the perfect salve to sooth any tension that comes up.
EDIT:  I should also add the standard disclaimer about MAOi effects (for piracetam this was observed in the striatum of rats) - be careful with this combo, start low.  I have a friend who is interested in this combo who is on SSRI's, and I would be very cautious about that particular mix, even though SSRI's tend to mute the effect of psychedelics.  Probably have her try a small amount of piracetam with the SSRI alone while sober, see how that goes, I've seen one report of problems with that combo.  If that went well, perhaps try a small amount, maybe 50mg, with psilocybin.  It's fast acting, so it's very easy to add more, but like salt in a stew, you can't take it out once you put it in.

Also please see Revisions on Nitrous Oxide and Piracetam for more info on piracetam.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Piracetam - Another Important Psychedelic Catalyst

Piracetam is one of the first smart drugs to come into popular use, with generally favorable but mild effects on cognition, memory, etc.

I had experimented with it in terms of everyday use and had found it to be somewhat less than impressive, although with about a pound of it on hand I recently found it to be slightly useful in small doses (~500 mg)  on "hangover" days or prior to meditation.

It occurred to me that it might be something interesting to throw into my usual mix (moderate cannabis, low dose psilocybin, nitrous oxide), and a web search indicated it might potentiate the effects of psychedelics.  It seems to have some MAO effects, i.e.
"Piracetam activated striatal and hypothalamic total MAO, hypothalamic MAO A and MAO B but exerted a pronounced inhibitory effect on MAO A and MAO B activity in the striatum."
I should mention that MAO inhibitors are something one should approach very cautiously, particularly when combining with psychedelics.  Some combinations could be life threatening, and everyone's metabolism is a little bit different.

At any rate, I had embarked on one of my usual adventures (the specific mix described in more detail here), which had gone reasonably well, and at some point I had recognized I was past the peak.  As I felt good and still wanted "more," I decided to try one 500 mg capsule of piracetam.  (Note:  I make these capsules myself, typically piracetam comes in 800 mg capsules).

The effects came on quickly, within 15-30 minutes.  It was as if the psychedelic effect knob had been turned up, with the most noticeable effect being increased visual effects.  It also increased alertness and sharpness somewhat and seemed to help keep me more present.

As it turns out, I had one of those very, very special experiences, and it turned out to be a great night for listening to music as well.  I had long been acquainted with a few shows from the Grateful Dead's spring tour of 1977, notably three shows I had from May.  But for this experience I was listening for the first time to 06-09-77, an audience recording from Winterland.  Great crowd energy on this show.  I hit a massive peak during the second set's "Not Fade Away," - blubbering, tears running down my face, sobbing with ecstatic joy, and then minutes later they hit me with "Terrapin."  Unbelievable.  Great show, I would love a soundboard of that (and on further investigation, it turns out this show is part of an official release, yay.  And on even further investigation, I'd recommend the audience recording over the soundboard.)

I found that the piracetam experience seemed to fade over a period of maybe 45 minutes to an hour, and then found it useful to re-dose with another 500 mg.  (After a number of additional experiences I'm not so sure that the re-dosing is necessary.  And that fits with the half life of piracetam being 4-5 hours.)

I then ended up listening to Miles Davis' complete Bitches Brew Sessions, just amazing, and then on the comedown I listened to Mazzy Star's seminal "So Tonight That I Might See."  For me, the music hit it pretty much dead solid perfect for the entire evening.

So, I'm very excited about adding piracetam into the mix.  Better visuals, a little more sharpness, and overall getting the experience into some very interesting psychedelic territory without the intensity of a pure psychedelic trip.

A similar perspective, "Do nootropics help further transcendence?"

And please see Revisions on Nitrous Oxide and Piracetam for more thoughts on piracetam.