Psilocybin Enhances Mindfulness-Related Capabilities in a Meditation Retreat Setting

Psychedelic Science Conference 2017, Oakland CA, USA.
Interdisciplinary Track | Friday April 21st, 5:00 PM |

Under supportive conditions, psychedelics can induce personally meaningful and profound psychospiritual experiences with a striking resemblance to mystical experiences reached in very deep meditation. Likewise, improvements in mindfulness-related capabilities may not only be enhanced by meditation practices but also through distinctive features of the psychedelic experience.

In order to investigate the neurobiology of expanded states of consciousness and the potential of psilocybin to facilitate mindfulness-related capabilities, we conducted a neuroimaging study with long-term meditators in a meditation retreat setting. We present findings about psilocybin-induced altered states of consciousness during meditation including self-reported meditation depth and post-retreat levels of mindfulness. In addition, we discuss psilocybin-related changes in functional brain connectivity as modulations of self-referential information processing networks that subserve the process of meditation.

We conclude that psilocybin has the potential to facilitate profound and personally meaningful experiences within a meditation retreat framework, which underscores the importance of set and setting and the conjunctive role of mindful stance to facilitate beneficial outcomes of psychedelic experiences. Through enhancing mindfulness-related capabilities and well-being, psilocybin may have promising therapeutic impact for integrative transformational healthcare.

Milan Scheidegger, M.D., Ph.D., M.A. HPK, completed his Ph.D. in functional and molecular neuroimaging at the Institute for Biomedical Engineering (University and ETH Zurich). As a resident physician at the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics (University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich) he is currently researching the neurobiology and pharmacology of altered states of consciousness. He is member of the Swiss Society for Psycholytic Therapy (SAEPT) and investigates the potential of psychedelics such as ketamine, psilocybin, ayahuasca and DMT to facilitate therapeutic transformation. On his ethnobotanical expeditions to Mexico, Colombia and Brazil he explored the traditional use of psychoactive plants in shamanic rituals. In addition to empirical research, he earned an M.A. degree in History and Philosophy of Knowledge (ETH Zurich). His main interests include biosemiotics, epistemology and phenomenology of consciousness, mindfulness and deep ecology.