Towards Ego Transcendence: Can VR Produce Experiences Similar To Those Of Psychedelics?

A recent research article assessing ego identity reduction and increased feelings of connectedness found key insights regarding a potentially similar response in people subjected to a VR experience than those taking medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

The paper, published in the scientific journal Nature, reports on a VR experience, “Isness-D”, combined with four indicators used in psychedelics studies, designed by artist and physicist David Glowacki in collaboration with six other researchers.

The program was set for groups of four to five people from all over the world, all sharing a virtual space, each participant experiencing bodies as “luminous energetic essences with diffuse spatial boundaries.” In fact, Isness-D was inspired by quantum mechanics and the blurry line between matter and energy. 

The sense of deep connectedness and ego attenuation produces feelings usually evoked by a psychedelic trip: a self-transcendent experience. As recalled by Hana Kiros on MIT Technology Review, these kinds of experiences exist on a spectrum, from weak to strong. In clinical studies involving psychedelics, people reporting more intense feelings of self-transcendence usually also see the most noticeable improvements in their symptoms.

The 75 participants’ responses went through the MEQ30 (a mystical experience questionnaire), the ego dissolution inventory scale, the “communitas” scale, and the “inclusion of community in self” scale, to later be compared with responses in published psychedelics trial results. 

The mystical experience report scale showed intensity-related answers equivalent to those found of people taking 20 milligrams of psilocybin, or 200 micrograms of LSD, and more powerful than responses after microdoses of psilocybin and LSD.

What is not yet clear are the enduring effects of a VR experience and whether it can, by itself produce similar benefits to psychedelics, considering psychedelics are usually understood as improving clinical conditions by providing both the subjective experience and the neurochemical effect. More research on this will likely be coming soon.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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Posted In: CannabisNewsPsychedelicsMarketsDavid GlowackiIsness-DNature Scientific Journalvirtual reality
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