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  Psychedelics, meditation, and self-consciousness

Millière, R., Carhart-Harris, R. L., Roseman, L., Trautwein, F.-M., & Berkovich-Ohana, A. (2018). Psychedelics, meditation, and self-consciousness. Frontiers in Psychology, 9: 1475. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01475.

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Millière, Raphaël 1, Author
Carhart-Harris, Robin L. 2, Author
Roseman, Leor 2, Author
Trautwein, Fynn-Mathis3, Author           
Berkovich-Ohana, Aviva 4, Author
1Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, ou_persistent22              
2Psychedelic Research Group, Division of Brain Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, United Kingdom, ou_persistent22              
3Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_634552              
4Edmond Safra Brain Research Center, Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Israel, ou_persistent22              


Free keywords: Psychedelics; Meditation; Self-consciousness; Consciousness; Bodily self-consciousness; Autobiographical memory; Mind wandering; Mental time travel
 Abstract: In recent years, the scientific study of meditation and psychedelic drugs has seen remarkable developments. The increased focus on meditation in cognitive neuroscience has led to a cross-cultural classification of standard meditation styles validated by functional and structural neuroanatomical data. Meanwhile, the renaissance of psychedelic research has shed light on the neurophysiology of altered states of consciousness induced by classical psychedelics, such as psilocybin and LSD, whose effects are mainly mediated by agonism of serotonin receptors. Few attempts have been made at bridging these two domains of inquiry, despite intriguing evidence of overlap between the phenomenology and neurophysiology of meditation practice and psychedelic states. In particular, many contemplative traditions explicitly aim at dissolving the sense of self by eliciting altered states of consciousness through meditation, while classical psychedelics are known to produce significant disruptions of self-consciousness, a phenomenon known as drug-induced ego dissolution. In this article, we discuss available evidence regarding convergences and differences between phenomenological and neurophysiological data on meditation practice and psychedelic drug-induced states, with a particular emphasis on alterations of self-experience. While both meditation and psychedelics may disrupt self-consciousness and underlying neural processes, we emphasize that neither meditation nor psychedelic states can be conceived as simple, uniform categories. Moreover, we suggest that there are important phenomenological differences even between conscious states described as experiences of self-loss. As a result, we propose that self-consciousness may be best construed as a multidimensional construct, and that “self-loss,” far from being an unequivocal phenomenon, can take several forms. Indeed, various aspects of self-consciousness, including narrative aspects linked to autobiographical memory, self-related thoughts and mental time travel, and embodied aspects rooted in multisensory processes, may be differently affected by psychedelics and meditation practices. Finally, we consider long-term outcomes of experiences of self-loss induced by meditation and psychedelics on individual traits and prosocial behavior. We call for caution regarding the problematic conflation of temporary states of self-loss with “selflessness” as a behavioral or social trait, although there is preliminary evidence that correlations between short-term experiences of self-loss and long-term trait alterations may exist.


Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2018-03-162018-07-262018-09-04
 Publication Status: Published online
 Pages: -
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01475
PMID: 30245648
PMC: PMC6137697
Other: eCollection 2018
 Degree: -



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Project name : -
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Funding program : Ertegun Scholarship Programme
Funding organization : Oxford University
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Funding organization : Alex Mosley Charitable Trust
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Funding program : President's PhD Scholarship
Funding organization : Imperial College London
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Grant ID : TR 1587/1-1
Funding program : Individual Fellowship
Funding organization : Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
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Grant ID : 228/14
Funding program : -
Funding organization : Bial Foundation

Source 1

Title: Frontiers in Psychology
  Abbreviation : Front Psychol
Source Genre: Journal
Publ. Info: Pully, Switzerland : Frontiers Research Foundation
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 9 Sequence Number: 1475 Start / End Page: - Identifier: ISSN: 1664-1078
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/1664-1078