Increasing Conscious Awareness Through Psychedelics

Current Treatments

Most patients endure a similar set of therapies for consciousness disorders. Patients go through various pharmacological treatments including zolpidem and amantadine.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Brain Complexity and Consciousness

Many theoretical accounts of consciousness have related to the complexity in the neural system. One fo the most influential theories has been neural complexity. The neural complexity theory is divided into two fundamental features: differentiation and integration.

Psychedelics for Increased Brain Complexity

Since now, it was assumed that brain complexity is maximal during normal wakefulness, due to other tests showing reduced consciousness. It has since been found that brain complexity values recorded during psychedelic state exceed those found in normal waking consciousness.

Psilocybin

Does Increasing Brain Complexity, Increase Conscious Awareness?

Knowing that impairments in conscious awareness are closely related to measures of brain complexity, should psychedelics elevate conscious awareness in patients with disorders of consciousness?

Stimulants and Arousal for Conscious Awareness

There is currently no evidence that stimulant drugs such as D-amphetamine or methylphenidate (Ritalin and Adderall) increase brain complexity through increasing arousal.

The Ethics Behind Psychedelics

There’s also several ethical considerations that need to be taken with interventional research in patients with disorders of consciousness. On one hand, there’s concerns to harming a patient lacking the capacity to consent and on the other hand, research must be done if we want to progress our ability to improve the health of patients experiencing consciousness impairment.

The Future of Clinical Testing

While animal studies have informed our understanding the neural circuitry involved in information processing it’s less evident that any existing animal model acquired brain injury has relevance for the goal of understanding the recovery of conscious awareness in humans.

Animal Injury Model

Key Takeaways

  • Current therapy methods for disorders of consciousness include DMS, VNS, TDCS, and TMS which have not consistently shown beneficial effects on conscious awareness or functional recovery
  • A prediction shared by many theories is that complexity should be high in the normal awake state and low whenever consciousness is lost (anaesthesia, REM sleep, brain injury)
  • Brain complexity values recorded during psychedelic state exceed those found in normal waking consciousness.
  • The hypothesis is that psychedelics may elevate conscious awareness in patients with disorders of consciousness
  • There’s concerns to harming a patient lacking the capacity to consent and on the other hand but research must be done if we want to progress our ability to improve the health of patients experiencing consciousness impairment

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