OPEN Foundation

Creativity

THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION

The Doors of Perception. Aldous Huxley. Vintage Publishing. ISBN: 978-0099458203

In this philosophical essay, released as a book, Huxley details his experience with mescaline over the course of one afternoon. 

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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Tom Wolfe. Transworld Publishers. ISBN: 978-0552993661

Wolfe presents a firsthand account of the experiences of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters, who traveled across the US in a colorfully painted school bus became famous for their use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD in order to achieve expansion of their consciousness. This book has long been considered one of the greatest books about the history of the hippie movement.

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Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change

Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change. Tao Lin. Random House USA. ISBN: 9781101974513

After discovering the works of Terence McKenna, Lin embarks on a journey of personal discovery that aids his recovery from addiction, changes his world view and leads him to ask big questions such as: Why do we make art? Is the world made of language? What happens when we die? And is the imagination more real than the universe?

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Psychedelic Future of the Mind: How Entheogens Are Enhancing Cognition, Boosting Intelligence, and Raising Values

Psychedelic Future of the Mind: How Entheogens Are Enhancing Cognition, Boosting Intelligence, and Raising Values. Thomas B. Roberts. Park Street Press. IBSN: 978-1594774591

A look into a future society that embraces psychedelics as tools for cognitive development, personal growth, business, and an experience-based religious reformation. This book is ideal for anyone interested in how psychedelics could change the course of human development.

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Spontaneous and deliberate creative cognition during and after psilocybin exposure

Abstract

Creativity is an essential cognitive ability linked to all areas of our everyday functioning. Thus, finding a way to enhance it is of broad interest. A large number of anecdotal reports suggest that the consumption of psychedelic drugs can enhance creative thinking; however, scientific evidence is lacking. Following a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group design, we demonstrated that psilocybin (0.17 mg/kg) induced a time- and construct-related differentiation of effects on creative thinking. Acutely, psilocybin increased ratings of (spontaneous) creative insights, while decreasing (deliberate) task-based creativity. Seven days after psilocybin, number of novel ideas increased. Furthermore, we utilized an ultrahigh field multimodal brain imaging approach, and found that acute and persisting effects were predicted by within- and between-network connectivity of the default mode network. Findings add some support to historical claims that psychedelics can influence aspects of the creative process, potentially indicating them as a tool to investigate creativity and subsequent underlying neural mechanisms. Trial NL6007; psilocybin as a tool for enhanced cognitive flexibility; https://www.trialregister.nl/trial/6007 .

Mason, N. L., Kuypers, K., Reckweg, J. T., Müller, F., Tse, D., Da Rios, B., Toennes, S. W., Stiers, P., Feilding, A., & Ramaekers, J. G. (2021). Spontaneous and deliberate creative cognition during and after psilocybin exposure. Translational psychiatry, 11(1), 209. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-021-01335-5

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Do psychedelics make you more creative?


Creativity and psychedelics have been closely allied ever since recorded history began. We can find ancient mushroom art that was likely inspired by the psychedelic experience, and in more recent history, we have reports of inspiration from psychedelics abound from the Beatles to Steve Jobs to microdosing tech enthusiasts. 
James Fadiman (one of the speakers at ICPR) studied creativity with engineers and architects in the 1960s. Although the studies [1] weren’t up to today’s standards of double-blind, placebo-controlled, they did provide a first hint of what was to come.
The participants noted that they found solutions to problems they had been working on for months. In the studies they were given a moderately high dose of LSD or mescaline (100ug and 200mg respectively). Their inhibitions were reduced, ideation flowed more easily, and they could see the problem from different perspectives.
“Looking at the same problem with (psychedelic) materials, I was able to consider it in a much more basic way, because I could form and keep in mind a much broader picture.” – study participant
Creativity itself is a tricky concept to define and measure. It can be defined as the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative. You can see creativity as a process that happens by combining information in new ways. This process is most commonly divided into two parts: divergent (generating ideas) and convergent (evaluating ideas) creativity.
Ben Sessa asked in 2008 if it was time to revisit psychedelics and creativity [2], as the creative process and the psychedelic experience shared many characteristics. But that since the 1960s, not many studies had looked into psychedelics and creativity.

Findings

Since 2008 there have been many studies on both the perceived effects (at macro- and microdoses) of psychedelics on creativity. A preliminary conclusion could be that psychedelics help with divergent creativity during the psychedelic experience, and possibly with convergent creativity during the integration afterward. A small selection of them found the following:
During a psychedelic experience with Ayahuasca, divergent creativity was slightly enhanced on one measure [3]. Participants in the study were more creative in identifying novel connections between pictures (PCT test).  Measuring one [4] and two [5] days after a psychedelic retreat with respectively a macrodose of psilocybin and ayahuasca, divergent creativity was also found to be enhanced.
In the study of the psilocybin retreat [4] however, the convergent creativity was impaired during the psychedelic experience. In the test they were worse at identifying a set connection between pictures. But convergent creativity was higher when they measured it seven days later. So although this measure of creativity was worse during a macrodose, it seemed to have improved a week later.
At the microdosing level, many people report being more creative. A survey study that included a test of creativity, on which Rotem Petranker worked, confirmed this [6]. The study found a weak correlation (r = 0.15) between microdosing and creativity.
How psychedelics lead to creativity is still being studied and Ido Hartogsohn points towards the meaning-enhancing properties of them as a possible mechanism [7]. If you’re not as critical of yourself, he states, then you might have more divergent ideas which can then be valuable after evaluation (convergent).
“By magnifying the perceived significance of creative challenges and insights, psychedelics provide users with the impetus to pursue new, less obvious lines of ideation that they might otherwise have ignored; and with enhanced motivation to explore new creative directions to their fullest ramifications.” (p. 129)

Chemistry 

How this happens at the level of brain chemistry is currently being investigated by researchers like Leor Roseman. One study [8] he worked on showed more general coherence and lower frontoparietal network activity whilst on a macrodose of psilocybin.
 


 
The coming decades will shed more light on what aspects of creativity psychedelics can influence. Retreats that work together with researchers, like the one Daan Keiman runs, may help provide insights.
The speakers above are among the 60+ speakers at the Interdisciplinary Conference on Psychedelics Research – taking place from the 24th to the 27th of September. Here, top researchers will showcase the latest multi-disciplinary insights from psychedelic science. More information at icpr2020.net.
 
[1] Harman, W. W., McKim, R. H., Mogar, R. E., Fadiman, J., & Stolaroff, M. J. (1966). Psychedelic agents in creative problem-solving: A pilot study. Psychological reports, 19(1), 211-227.
[2] Sessa, B. (2008). Is it time to revisit the role of psychedelic drugs in enhancing human creativity?. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 22(8), 821-827.
[3] Kuypers, K. P. C., Riba, J., De La Fuente Revenga, M., Barker, S., Theunissen, E. L., & Ramaekers, J. G. (2016). Ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking while decreasing conventional convergent thinking. Psychopharmacology, 233(18), 3395-3403.
[4] Mason, N. L., Mischler, E., Uthaug, M. V., & Kuypers, K. P. (2019). Sub-acute effects of psilocybin on empathy, creative thinking, and subjective well-being. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 51(2), 123-134.
[5] Frecska, E., Móré, C. E., Vargha, A., & Luna, L. E. (2012). Enhancement of creative expression and entoptic phenomena as after-effects of repeated ayahuasca ceremonies. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 44(3), 191-199.
[6] Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C. R., Dinh-Williams, L. A., Hui, K., Hapke, E., Farb, N. A. (2019). Microdosing psychedelics: personality, mental health, and creativity differences in microdosers. Psychopharmacology, 236(2), 731-740.
[7] Hartogsohn, I. (2018). The meaning-enhancing properties of psychedelics and their mediator role in psychedelic therapy, spirituality, and creativity. Frontiers in neuroscience, 12, 129.
[8] Girn, M., Mills, C., Roseman, L., Carhart-Harris, R. L., & Christoff, K. (2020). Updating the dynamic framework of thought: Creativity and psychedelics. NeuroImage, 116726.

The therapeutic potential of microdosing psychedelics in depression

Abstract

Microdosing psychedelics is the repeated use of small doses of, for example, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin, typically for a few weeks. Despite the popular and scientific attention in recent years, and claims by users that it has therapeutic value in affective disorders like depression, little scientific knowledge is available to back this. The purpose of this review was to investigate whether there are scientific grounds to state that this practice could be helpful in the treatment of affective disorders, and safe to use repeatedly. To that end, the literature (PubMed, MedLine) was searched, looking for (controlled) experimental studies with low doses of LSD and/or psilocybin, in healthy volunteers and patient samples. After a selection process and the addition of relevant articles, 14 experimental studies entered this review. Findings show that both LSD (10-20 mcg) and psilocybin (<1-3 mg) have subtle (positive) effects on cognitive processes (time perception, convergent and divergent thinking) and brain regions involved in affective processes. Besides the pleasant experience, increased anxiety and a cycling pattern of depressive and euphoric mood were also found. With regard to safety, it was demonstrated that low doses are well tolerated (in healthy volunteers) and have no-to-minimal effects on physiological measures. While it is yet unclear whether psychedelic microdosing is of therapeutic value for depression, the aforementioned effects on selective processes suggest that low doses of psychedelics could play a role in depression by inducing some kind of cognitive flexibility, which might lead to decreased rumination. While previous studies were conducted mostly in small samples of healthy volunteers, future placebo-controlled clinical trials in depressed patients are required to understand the therapeutic value of microdosing psychedelics, how this differs from therapy using full psychedelic doses, and whether different psychedelics have different effect patterns. The proposed research will give new insights into the potential of future alternative psychiatric treatment forms that are fiercely needed.

Kuypers K. (2020). The therapeutic potential of microdosing psychedelics in depression. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology, 10, 2045125320950567. https://doi.org/10.1177/2045125320950567

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The Viability of Microdosing Psychedelics as a Strategy to Enhance Cognition and Well-being – An Early Review

Abstract

Psychedelic substances are currently experiencing a renaissance in interest for both therapeutic as well as recreational applications. It has been proposed that microdosing, i.e., ingesting sub-perceptual doses of a psychedelic, could confer some of the benefits of these substances to users while minimizing the risks associated with full-dose use. This review aimed to summarize and examine the extant literature on psychedelic microdosing. Exploratory evidence published to date indicates a variety of benefits reported by microdosers including improvements in mood, focus, and creativity, with some null reports, and a minority of people reporting selective negative consequences such as increased anxiety and physiological discomfort. Methodological limitations of current evidence, however, make definitive conclusions hard to draw. Recommendations for future research are given.
Bornemann, J. (2020). The Viability of Microdosing Psychedelics as a Strategy to Enhance Cognition and Well-being-An Early Review. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-9., https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1761573
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Ayahuasca's 'afterglow': improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers.

Abstract

RATIONALE:
There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca for treating depression and anxiety. However, the mechanisms of action involved in ayahuasca’s therapeutic effects are unclear. Mindfulness and cognitive flexibility may be two possible psychological mechanisms. Like other classic psychedelics, ayahuasca also leads to an ‘afterglow’ effect of improved subjective well-being that persists after the acute effects have subsided. This period may offer a window of increased therapeutic potential.
OBJECTIVE:
To explore changes in mindfulness and cognitive flexibility before and within 24 h after ayahuasca use.METHODS:
Forty-eight participants (54% female) were assessed on measures of mindfulness (Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)), decentering (Experiences Questionnaire (EQ)), and cognitive flexibility (Cognitive Flexibility Scale (CFS)), and completed the Stroop and Wisconsin Picture Card Sorting Task (WPCST) before drinking ayahuasca, and again within 24 h.
RESULTS:
Mindfulness (FFMQ total scores and four of the five mindfulness facets: observe, describe, act with awareness, and non-reactivity) and decentering (EQ) significantly increased in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Cognitive flexibility (CFS and WPCST) significantly improved in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Changes in both mindfulness and cognitive flexibility were not influenced by prior ayahuasca use.
CONCLUSIONS:
The present study supports ayahuasca’s ability to enhance mindfulness and further reports changes in cognitive flexibility in the ‘afterglow’ period occur, suggesting both could be possible psychological mechanisms concerning the psychotherapeutic effects of ayahuasca. Given psychological gains occurred regardless of prior ayahuasca use suggests potentially therapeutic effects for both naïve and experienced ayahuasca drinkers.
Murphy-Beiner, A., & Soar, K. (2020). Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers. Psychopharmacology, 1-9., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05445-3
Link to full text

Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers.

Abstract

RATIONALE:
There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca for treating depression and anxiety. However, the mechanisms of action involved in ayahuasca’s therapeutic effects are unclear. Mindfulness and cognitive flexibility may be two possible psychological mechanisms. Like other classic psychedelics, ayahuasca also leads to an ‘afterglow’ effect of improved subjective well-being that persists after the acute effects have subsided. This period may offer a window of increased therapeutic potential.
OBJECTIVE:
To explore changes in mindfulness and cognitive flexibility before and within 24 h after ayahuasca use.METHODS:
Forty-eight participants (54% female) were assessed on measures of mindfulness (Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)), decentering (Experiences Questionnaire (EQ)), and cognitive flexibility (Cognitive Flexibility Scale (CFS)), and completed the Stroop and Wisconsin Picture Card Sorting Task (WPCST) before drinking ayahuasca, and again within 24 h.
RESULTS:
Mindfulness (FFMQ total scores and four of the five mindfulness facets: observe, describe, act with awareness, and non-reactivity) and decentering (EQ) significantly increased in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Cognitive flexibility (CFS and WPCST) significantly improved in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Changes in both mindfulness and cognitive flexibility were not influenced by prior ayahuasca use.
CONCLUSIONS:
The present study supports ayahuasca’s ability to enhance mindfulness and further reports changes in cognitive flexibility in the ‘afterglow’ period occur, suggesting both could be possible psychological mechanisms concerning the psychotherapeutic effects of ayahuasca. Given psychological gains occurred regardless of prior ayahuasca use suggests potentially therapeutic effects for both naïve and experienced ayahuasca drinkers.
Murphy-Beiner, A., & Soar, K. (2020). Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers. Psychopharmacology, 1-9., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05445-3
Link to full text