Ego-Dissolution and Psychedelics
The experience of ‘self’ or ‘ego’ is a cardinal feature of normal waking consciousness, yet its precise nature and neurobiological underpinning remains poorly understood. The experience of a compromised sense of ‘self’, termed ‘ego-dissolution’, is central to the psychedelic experience, suggesting that psychedelics may offer a precious window into the nature of normal and abnormal self-experience. Such an understanding promises to shed light on altered mental states such as the mystical experience and acute psychosis. This presentation will provide an overview of prominent attempts to understand the nature of self-experience from philosophical, psychological and neuroscientific disciplines. Special attention will be given to how self-consciousness is disturbed in certain psychiatric conditions. Finally, the close relationship between ego-dissolution and psychedelics will be discussed in light of new data collected at the Imperial Neuropsychopharmacology Group.
Dr Matthew Nour is an academic psychiatrist and clinical neuroscientist working in London. He studied Medicine and Neuroscience at Oxford University, and has conducted research with neuroscience groups at Oxford University, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, King’s College London and Imperial College London. Matthew’s research uses brain imaging (fMRI and PET) and computational modeling to investigate the neurobiology of psychosis and schizophrenia.