Every year on 4/20, marijuana enthusiasts light up in hopes of reaching a higher plane — miles above the dreary monotony of everyday reality. Achieving “higher consciousness,” however, has always been more of a feeling than a fact, as scientists have never been able to study whether these experiences are associated with actual changes in the brain.
But all that might be about to change.
On Wednesday, scientists studying consciousness at the University of Sussex released the first neurological evidence that certain drugs — they focused on LSD, psilocybin, and ketamine — do change what consciousness looks like in the brain. Several factors have made studying this difficult in the past: First of all, it’s hard to study psychedelic drugs, especially in the United Kingdom, where all psychedelic substances are illegal. Secondly, experts in the field inevitably run into one major issue: How do you measure consciousness?
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