Friday, September 30, 2011

Psilocybin leads to increased Openness

Or more precisely, mystical experiences while under the influence of psilocybin lead to increases in the core personality dimension of openness, one of five key personality factors that are thought to be constant throughout one's life.  So that's kind of big news, changing a trait that was thought to be largely fixed.

The researcher here is our old friend Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins who made the news a few years back showing psilocybin could induce mystical experiences under laboratory settings.  I've linked to that before.

The study covering openness was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, here is the abstract:

A large body of evidence, including longitudinal analyses of personality change, suggests that core personality traits are predominantly stable after age 30. To our knowledge, no study has demonstrated changes in personality in healthy adults after an experimentally manipulated discrete event. Intriguingly, double-blind controlled studies have shown that the classic hallucinogen psilocybin occasions personally and spiritually significant mystical experiences that predict long-term changes in behaviors, attitudes and values. In the present report we assessed the effect of psilocybin on changes in the five broad domains of personality – Neuroticism, Extroversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Consistent with participant claims of hallucinogen-occasioned increases in aesthetic appreciation, imagination, and creativity, we found significant increases in Openness following a high-dose psilocybin session. In participants who had mystical experiences during their psilocybin session, Openness remained significantly higher than baseline more than 1 year after the session. The findings suggest a specific role for psilocybin and mystical-type experiences in adult personality change.

While looking for the paper I stumbled across a podcast at The Secular Buddhist with Griffiths discussing psilocybin and meditation.  Haven't had a chance to listen to it yet.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Meditating in a Big Magnetic Tube

This is a followup to an earlier post on experiments at Yale on advanced meditators (4th Path, common definition of enlightenment) to determine any differences in the brain.  The Hamilton Project guys have put out an interesting podcast episode discussing their experiences with the Yale researcher.

They talk a bit about an area around the posterior cingulate that is of interest regarding the sense of self.  Posterior cingulate in green:

To tie it all together, the Hamilton Project refers to Bill Hamilton, author of Saints and Psychopaths.  Bill Hamilton mentored Kenneth Folk, and Kenneth (2nd site with media) mentored a bunch of people including Daniel Ingram of Dharma Overground, as well as Owen and Nikolai who participated in the study and are on the podcast.  Owen is still apparently doing the Hamilton Project website, and Nikolai has a site called Down the Rabbit Hole documenting his post path journey.  That should be enough links.