A THEORY OF INTELLIGENCE Part Two addendum (Identity)

by David Turell @, Saturday, April 28, 2018, 19:40 (764 days ago) @ David Turell

I have just discovered an article on psychedelics which is on point. The pre-sapiens undoubtedly had the same chemical influences on their brains as we do. The thinking function is just as dependent on chemical health as well as neuronal health in our ancestors and now. What the more complex cortex allows in more complex thought, but still liable to the same chemical influences as previous less complex brains experienced. Habilis may well have had schizophrenia.


On a sweltering New York evening in August 2016, Jesse Noakes finally found relief from years of mind-numbing depression. As he sat on the sofa facing the therapist his gloom melted away, replaced by feelings of clarity, warmth and enthusiasm. “It was magical,” he says, “something that I was so, so desperate for.”

The Australian writer had spent his 20s cycling from one antidepressant to the next without relief. The therapy session that finally sliced through his mental miasma came at the end of a months-long global quest that took him to the Netherlands, Switzerland, and finally the US. It also took him to the wrong side of the law. That’s because his therapy session was boosted by a dose of MDMA, the active ingredient in the illegal party drug ecstasy.

Clandestine therapy sessions like these may soon be a thing of the past. For years now a band of dedicated scientists has been quietly building a case to redeem the reputation of MDMA and a raft of other psychedelic drugs – LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and ketamine – hoping to deliver them into the hands of mainstream psychiatry. They claim that when it comes to some of our most debilitating mental illnesses – depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – the therapeutic cupboard is close to bare. Psychedelic drugs might provide a radical new answer.


MDMA creates a minor snowstorm in the brain, showering it with serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals known as neurotransmitters because they carry signals from neuron to neuron. Commonly prescribed antidepressants also raise the levels of these neurotransmitters, but MDMA also causes the release of stress hormones like corticosteroids as well as oxytocin, associated with social bonding.


When it comes to LSD and other ‘classical’ psychedelics, the clinical story is similar. Gasser’s study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy for people with end-of-life anxiety found that LSD reduced anxiety in 12 participants with effects lasting for a year. Studies using the milder psychedelic psilocybin have been even more promising. In 2016 two studies – with a combined 80 participants – found that anxiety and depression were alleviated and attitudes towards death improved. For 60-80% of people who took the drug, the positive effects were felt six months later.

The specifics of how classical psychedelics produce their therapeutic benefits – or how they cause hallucinations – are still not fully understood. Compared with MDMA, the effects on the brain are less scatter-gun. They activate a single serotonin 5-HT2A receptor that studs neurons found in the brain’s outer layer, or cortex.

Brain-imaging studies show psychedelics literally “expand the mind”, says pharmacologist David Nichols, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A 2016 study from Imperial College London and the Beckley Foundation in Oxford, which funds psychedelic research, used MRI scans to show a dramatic increase in the connectivity of different brain regions in subjects taking LSD. This increased connectivity was particularly evident in the visual cortex, which may explain hallucinations.

Normally neurons fire and communicate with other cells in their local neighbourhood, and only rarely reach out to communicate with distant parts of the brain. “When you take a psychedelic,” Nichols says, “all the internal structure of these local networks seems to break down and they all reach out and everything starts globally connecting.”

For Gasser, the mind-expanding effect of classical psychedelics underpins their therapeutic effect. “It’s not a kind of Alice in Wonderland fantasy land,” he says. Sessions can be challenging but his patients’ problems come to the surface in an LSD session. The drug, he explains, brings about a feeling of connectedness – to nature, to friends and loved ones, and to the deep-seated issues that remain buried during the hustle and bustle of everyday life.


For Jesse Noakes, the mainstream acceptance of psychedelics can’t come soon enough. Having now found a trusted therapist in Australia, his therapy no longer requires traipsing to the other side of the world, though it still takes him to the wrong side of the law. But he’s confident the psychedelic tide is turning. “I think it’s inevitable,” he says.

Comment: It is rated as an eleven minute read. It is worth it. The issue of dualism is never simple.

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