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The Psychedelic Altered State of Consciousness: Entropic brain theory vs. Integrated information theory


Classic psychedelic substances, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and the active compound in magic mushrooms psilocybin, are being studied again in a renaissance of psychedelic research. Psychedelic substances have profound effects on the quality of subjective experience, as well as the capacity to induce mystical-type experiences and ego-dissolution. Recent clinical studies indicate that the subjective experiences from these substances have positive effects on patient populations and healthy participants, both acutely and long-term. Considering the therapeutic potency of the psychedelic-induced altered state of consciousness (ASC) it is bound to tell us more about the nature of consciousness itself. With psychedelic research in its renaissance, the aim of my work is to evaluate what we know today about the psychedelic-induced ASC, by addressing the recent phenomenological, therapy and neuroimaging studies on LSD and psilocybin. I further assess how psychedelic research attribute to our understanding of the mind, as the recent neuroimaging studies have given rise to a new theory on conscious states, the entropic brain theory. And evaluate how this new theory contributes to the field of consciousness research, by comparing it to the already well established integrated information theory (IIT). A significant characteristic of the psychedelic state is its capacity to disrupt neural integrity, both disintegrating normally stable networks and adding novel integrations, which is also correlated with the subjective intensity of the psychedelic experience. The entropic brain theory regards the psychedelics state to be a high-entropy, content-rich, primary state, that is closer to super-criticality than normal waking consciousness.
According to the entropic-brain view, entropy is index representative of both qualia, content, complexity, and information. IIT, on the other hand, has a more intricate definition of information as a function of qualia. Information in IIT is derived from the qualitative cause-effect repertoire of a conscious state, which may increase its repertoire by high-entropy but then consequently decreases its informational value for the system as a whole. Furthermore, the theories differ in what methods should be used to measure levels of consciousness and how to explain both ego-dissolution and the novel neural structures which appear in the psychedelic state. I argue that even though the entropic brain theory has brought psychedelics and psychoanalytic theory into neuroscientific consciousness research, it is in need of development to further contribute to the field of consciousness research compared with the more elaborate integrated information theory. In my poster or presentation, I will offer a more detailed analysis of the two theories and their explanatory power, as other presenters already focus on the neural and therapeutic aspects of the psychedelic state.



September 5th 2019





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