the brain on the psychedelic drug psilocybin, beach stranded boat wallpaper, humans and eye contact

Psychedelic drugs are generally thought of as brain stimulates of a sort. The user experiencing visions, enhanced colors, stop-motion time, trails from lights, imaginary sounds, increased sensitivity to sounds. yet in reality, at least in the case of the psychedelic drug psilocybin, brain activity seems to decease. The reason seems to have to do the the brain’s natural evolutionary tendency to protect itself from over stimulation. Your brain on psilocybin

These two areas appear to play important roles in the regulation of self-awareness as they are particularly activated when people are asked to think about themselves for example (Wicker, Ruby, Royet, & Fonlupt, 2003). The authors thought it was quite interesting that these areas actually show much higher activity than other parts of the brain under normal conditions, yet showed the greatest deactivation under the drug. Additionally, the intensity of the alterations of conscious experience reported by the volunteers was proportional to the decrease in brain activity. That is, the more brain activity decreased, the more vivid the “trip” experienced.

Why psilocybin might induce reductions in brain activity is not known, but it is natural to speculate. The authors argued that the findings are consistent with Aldous Huxley’s idea that normal consciousness acts like a “reducing valve” that actually constrains how much information a person normally takes in, so that one is not overwhelmed by chaotic stimuli. Therefore, the apparent “mind-expanding” effect of psychedelic drugs is due to a relaxation of this constraining effect. The reduced activity of the brains connector hubs might permit an “unconstrained style of cognition” producing psychedelic effects (Carhart-Harris, et al., 2012).

Though as that science blogger warns it is best not to jump to the conclusion that it is the drug in isolation alone that can produce a constraining effect on the – let’s call it the normal mental wheel spinning that goes on in the brain. Other studies have shown a similar reduction in activity when engaging in  passive behavior like watching a sunset or watching the rain beat against a window.

There is more at the link. And the usual cautions about drugs especially psychedelic drugs apply. While I have read about neurologist/biologist Oliver Sacks and his experiences with hallucinogenics, and that can be interesting, and informative, many people have suffered psychotic episodes under such drugs.

I’m not sure how people view their own decision-making. That is not to say that I have not had people tell me about their decision-making processes. I’m just not sure they really know about all the gears and pulleys that are working together and against each other in the process. They also seem singularly unaware of the phenomenon of self-deception. Then there are people who never gave how they think much thought. The precision of the language used in this article is amazing, as well as the findings ( click on the little plus sign at the bottom to get the full pdf) – Decision-making by urgency-gating: theory and experimental support.

beach stranded boat wallpaper

Humans always seek to make eye contact, even with monsters

Cognitive scientist Alan Kingstone, director of the brain and research lab at the University of British Columbia in Canada, first became interested in testing whether people look at each others eyes, or simply the centre of their heads, two years ago. However, some had suggested an answer to the question would be impossible to find because our eyes happen to always be roughly in the centre of our heads.

Taking the problem home to his family, Alan’s then 11-year-old son, Julian Levy – named lead author of the subsequent paper, titled “Monsters are people too”, published in British Royal Society journal Biology Letters – had “a clever idea that only a kid’s brain could have,” Kingstone said.

Eyes in odd places

Levy, a fan of popular fantasy video game Dungeons and Dragons, told his father about D&D monster characters that have eyes in unusual places, such as on their hands or tail.

“[Julian suggested] if you just showed them these images, you could find out whether they are just looking for the eyes or not. I thought, actually, that’s a very good idea,” Kingstone said.

When eyes are not where study participants would normally expect them – around the top of the head, their gaze would first go toward the center of the body, and then try to find the eyes.

The doctor also thinks – as many ethnologists have observed for years – that making eye contact would have been an evolutionary advantage in terms of nonverbal communication. That would seem to be common among most mammals. I’ve noticed that dogs, cats, birds – all make eye contact. Birds seem to feel they are relatively safe until humans make eye contact, then they feel threatened – the oh no a possible threat has seen me.

field of poppies and daisies

Why Should You Vote? Visualize The Nightmare of Mitt Romney World

Things Change – Jo Peel 2012 from Jo Peel on Vimeo.

Jo Peel created “Things Change,” a graffiti installation and stop-motion animation piece on the wall outside of the Village Underground arts space in Shoreditch, London