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“The critics would always say, don’t take these drugs cause they can change your life forever. What they didn’t understand was that was the entire point” – Quote from Neurons To Nirvana
A psychedelic experience can fundamentally change how we understand ourselves, the world, and our place within the world. Why? How? What is happening within the mind that alters our sense of being in the world so fundamentally?
Well, one consideration is this:
If how we understand ourselves, the world, and our place within the world is an ongoing process of interpretation and engagement based on the inner-models we have for navigating reality, and those models are an aggregate of our life experiences, which are encoded in our memory with a particular ‘meaning’, then perhaps altering that remembered meaning changes those models, thus altering our subjective orientation in the world.
Psychedelics modulate memory. In particular, they can help reconsolidate older memories with a different emotional salience or meaning. The result of this is an alteration in how we understand ourselves and the world. But this suggestion, likely, brings up more questions than answers.
Such questions might have to do with what memory is, how memory works, and how the pharmacology of psychedelics might alter memory processing in a way that enables the opportunity to “change your life forever”.
Of course, with this comes even more questions about the ethics and safety of intentional memory modulation and what might psychedelics as memory modulators might mean for our understandings of not only their clinical use but their impact on the brain of the healthy user.
Thankfully, we are fortunate enough to have Maria Balaet on the show to explore these questions with us.
Maria Balaet is a computational neuroscientist at Imperial College London. Her main research aim is to develop computational tools with clinical applications that can be used to investigate how cognition and brain activity change over time in healthy people and neurology patients. Previously, while she was a student at the University of Birmingham, she developed an interest in pharmacological modulation of memory, and how psychedelic drugs specifically could be used to treat mental health conditions related to maladaptive memories. Alongside, she runs her own virtual lab called Psyence Camp (coming soon, at https://psyence.camp), which aims to elucidate how psychedelics impact cognition in the general healthy population, in naturalistic settings. When not pursuing science, she is a painter and fiction writer.
Maria Balaet is on the show to talk about the impact of psychedelics on memory processing, the neuropharmacology of memory, the interplay of memory and personal consciousness, and the ethics of memory modulation with psychedelics.
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- Foundational concepts of memory, brain, and consciousnesses
- Neural Darwinism
- Memory as an operation of the brain
- Memory is not just about remembering things
- Encoding, consolidation, retrieval (and reconsolidation)
- Implicit vs explicit memory
- Different theories of memory retrieval
- The pharmacological mechanism of memory consolidation
- The malleability of memory over time – how memory is liable to disruption
- The memory of meaning
- The neurobiology of memory
- The impact of psychedelics on memory processing
- Her research using a ketamine analog to disrupt the reconsolidation process
- Psychedelics as memory modulators
- How we can use psychedelics therapeutically to change memory
- Research with ketamine to alter memory cues around alcoholism
- The dangers of at-home efforts to alter memory resulting in accidental self-harm
- Psychedelic brainwashing and malicious intent
- Differing psychedelics, different neuropharmacology, different memory modulation?
- The fleeting memories of DMT, dream recall, and state-dependent learning
- Is it possible to increase our ability to remember our psychedelic experiences?
- The role of glutamate in memory and how different psychedelics pharmacologically change that process (LSD vs ketamine)
- Maria’s upcoming research on how people’s cognition under psychedelics compares to the average sober population
This is Maria’s research giving people on psychedelics a chance to do the Great British Intelligence Test and compare their results to the average population. (it is not yet live, estimated launch is summer 2020)