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Next up on my improvised stroll through the Breaking Convention conference material was an entertaining lecture by American Katherine MacLean, who is involved in the authorized psilocybin research currently going on in the US, incidentally some of the first psychedelic studies in progress since the moratorium that went into effect around 1966-67! Read more at MAPS about the current projects and their background.
MacLean spoke enthusiastically of the research and seems an excellent spokesperson for the cause. A few comments worth preserving included:
- People who are classified as 'Open' on the classic personality matrix become even more 'Open' towards new experiences after taking psilocybin; a measurable fact. If I understood MacLean correctly, this increase in formal Open-ness has not been observed with any other psychological catalyst.
- The increase in Open-ness is positively correlated with the advent of a mystical experience during the psilocybin trip, a personality change that was still measurably present at a 14-month check-up.
- MacLean offered no hard biochemical data but mentioned that the serotonin-related process in the brain were persistently altered in people with life-long use of psychedelics, and again the Open-ness factor gave an atypically high reading.
- from her research she observed that 'high-dose' (exact figures were not offered) psilocybin trips had 70% of the subjects reporting a mystical experience, while around 30% experienced ego-death/ego-loss.
The last point raises the interesting question of the precise difference between an ego-loss trip and a mystical experience, but the short time-slot available for MacLean did not allow for detailed looks behind these examples. There can be no doubt that this psilocybin research is highly promising, an impression furthered by MacLean's spirited yet professional presentation.