STATES CHRONICLE – A team of researchers created a virtual reality machine which gives people drug-free psychedelic trips. The machine in questions mimics the hallucinations produced by magic mushroom ingestion, and allows the scientists to study how the brain processes these images. This is an accurate way to test the effect of psychedelic drugs without having any participants consume the substances.
The VR simulates the hallucinations caused by psychedelic drugs
The study has been developed by the scientists from the Sackler Center for Consciousness Science at Sussex University. They built the Hallucination Machine, which generated virtual reality images of the hallucinations usually produced by psilocybin, the main component of magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs.
The purpose of the experiment is to see how the brain reacts when being exposed to such hallucinations. Also, the scientists wanted to see how these images are different from what the brain usually sees, namely when it’s not in an altered state of consciousness. The machine allows them to study all these symptoms without having to give drugs to the participants.
Scientists will study how the brain behaves in an altered state of consciousness
The hallucinations are provided by DeepDream, Google’s program which takes regular patterns present in everyday objects and enhances them. All the participants had to wear the VR headsets which displayed these psychedelic images while walking around in the university campus.
Apart from the distorted imagery, psychedelics usually affect a person’s perception of time. The machine will mimic only the visual effect, so the participants won’t have an experience 100 percent identical to that of the drugs. However, it’s the safest way to study the hallucinogen effect on the brain.
Such experiments are only at the beginning, but the potential of VR use in neuroscience is huge. These tools can be used to induce altered states of consciousness without any risks, while scientists can take a look at the changes which occur in the brain. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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