Psilocybin Enhances Mindfulness-Related Capabilities in a Meditation Retreat Setting: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled fMRI Study

Breaking Convention 2017, London, UK.
Neuroscience Track | Saturday July 1st, 9:00 AM |

Under supportive conditions, psychedelics induce transformational experiences that resemble states reached in deep meditation. Likewise, improvements in mindfulness-related capabilities may not only be enhanced by meditation but also through distinctive features of the psychedelic experience.

Here we present findings from an fMRI study with psilocybin in experienced meditators in a meditation retreat setting. We found that psilocybin-assisted meditation increased both self-reported meditation depth and post-retreat levels of mindfulness. Notably, psilocybin also changed functional brain connectivity in self-referential information processing networks that subserve the process of meditation.

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

Milan Scheidegger
holds an M.D. degree and 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.