Magic Mushrooms and Brain Activity Revisited

By Bernardo Kastrup on Monday, 29 September 2014, hits: 3777


Via Reality Sandwich:

In Chapter 2 of Why Materialism Is Baloney, I illustrate a broad pattern associating procedures that reduce brain activity 
with expanded consciousness. These include hyperventilation, meditation, ordeals, gravity-induced loss of consciousness, strangulation, cardiac arrest, brain damage, and even psychedelics.

Indeed, a 2012 paper by Carhart-Harris et al. has showed that psychedelics only reduce neural activity, with no increases anywhere in the brain. This is counter-intuitive from a materialist perspective since, according to materialism, consciousness is brain activity (a totally inactive brain is, after all, a dead and unconscious brain under materialism). Recently, however, an inaccurate and misleading media report on a more recent paper by the same team has claimed that the researchers have now “found increased activity in regions of the brain that are known to be activated during dreaming.” This, if it were true, would contradict the conclusions of the earlier study. However, it is simply false. In this article, I want to clarify this.

Before I get to the essence of the issue, I want to insist on something I feel I cannot stop repeating. To quote my own words in the book (p. 50):
In both science and philosophy one must extract conclusions not from local and partial pieces of the data, but from a careful consideration of the data as a whole. One must look for broad patterns, because it is from these broad patterns that reliable conclusions can be extracted. While particular reports of transpersonal experiences could possibly be explained away, the broad pattern that associates peak transpersonal experiences with reductions of brain activity clearly points to a robust and consistent phenomenon. Whether psychedelics only reduce neural activity (and they do) or not, is just one small element in the broader pattern. It would be unfortunate to focus one’s attention exclusively on this small element, at the cost of losing sight of the whole pattern illustrated in the book.

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