A team of researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine believe they have developed a method to scientifically study the “mystical experiences” produced by shrooms.
Publishing their findings in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the team defines “mystical experience” using four central characteristics:
1. A sense of “mysticism,” meaning a sensation of sacredness or unity with all things
2. Positive mood
3. Transcendence of time and space
4. Ineffability, a feeling that the experience is beyond words.
The team of psychiatrists and neuroscientists created a 30-item Mystical Experience Questionnaire, called the MEQ30, which addresses all four of these “mystical experience” elements and can be used to obtain an overall score to describe the intensity of the mystical experience.
This was achieved by analyzing data collected from five laboratory-based experiments, in which a total of 184 participants were given moderate to high doses of psilocybin mushrooms and asked to describe their experience.
The results led to a number of theories. Psilocybin is thought to cause a decrease in brain activity in the parts of the brain typically associated with the “sense of self,” or “ego.” At the same time, an increase in communication between certain other parts of the brain was observed, producing a pattern of activity that resembled “dream sleep.”