Scientists have developed a machine that can produce hallucinations, imitating the psychedelic experience that happens when a person ingests magic mushrooms.
A team at the Sussex University’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science in England created the virtual reality Hallucination Machine to examine how the brain processes the world, how that is different from reality, and being high, without having to tell participants to ingest drugs, Newsweek reports.
The twelve participants use virtual reality headsets and are immersed in a revised form of Google’s DeepDream as they simulate walking through a university campus. DeepDream is a program made to enhance patterns in images that can produce hallucinogenic results.
The participants reported facing visual hallucinations like those they had experienced after taking psychedelics, specifically psilocybin, the ingredient in magic mushrooms that make people high.
But while the Hallucination Machine can churn out images that make people trip, it won’t create the distorted sense of time that accompanies using psychedelics, the researchers found.
The machine “provides a powerful new tool to complement the resurgence of research into altered states of consciousness,” even if the study is still in its early stages.
Anil Seth, Sackler Centre co-director, said,
The potential for VR in neuroscience is enormous and is just getting going. In five years, it’s going to be game changing.
The scientists are celebrating how virtual reality can be used to better understand the brain, although this is not the first time technology has studied altered states of consciousness.
In the 1980s, neuroscientist Dr. Michael Persinger created the “God helmet” to take a closer look at how the brain translates higher states of consciousness.
In addition, a study in April on brain scans among people who took LSD, ketamine and psilocybin showed that they experience a “heightened state of consciousness.”
The study was published in Scientific Reports.