First evidence for higher state of consciousness found
Scientific evidence of a ‘higher’ state of consciousness has been found in a study led by the University of Sussex.
Image created using brain imaging technology, showing changes in neural signal diversity while under the influence of LSD)
Neuroscientists observed a sustained increase in neural signal
diversity – a measure of the complexity of brain activity - of people
under the influence of psychedelic drugs, compared with when they were
in a normal waking state.
The diversity of brain signals provides a mathematical index of
the level of consciousness. For example, people who are awake have been
shown to have more diverse neural activity using this scale than those
who are asleep.
This, however, is the first study to show brain-signal
diversity that is higher than baseline, that is higher than in someone
who is simply ‘awake and aware’. Previous studies have tended to focus
on lowered states of consciousness, such as sleep, anaesthesia, or the
so-called ‘vegetative’ state.
The team say that more research is needed using more
sophisticated and varied models to confirm the results but they are
Professor Anil Seth, Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for
Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex, said: “This finding
shows that the brain-on-psychedelics behaves very differently from
“During the psychedelic state, the electrical activity of the
brain is less predictable and less ‘integrated’ than during normal
conscious wakefulness – as measured by ‘global signal diversity’.
“Since this measure has already shown its value as a measure of
‘conscious level’, we can say that the psychedelic state appears as a
higher ‘level’ of consciousness than normal – but only with respect to
this specific mathematical measure.”
For the study, Michael Schartner, Dr Adam Barrett and Professor
Seth of the Sackler Centre reanalysed data that had previously been
collected by Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff in
which healthy volunteers were given one of three drugs known to induce a
psychedelic state: psilocybin, ketamine and LSD.
Using brain imaging technology, they measured the tiny magnetic
fields produced in the brain and found that, across all three drugs,
this measure of conscious level – the neural signal diversity – was
This does not mean that the psychedelic state is a ‘better’ or
more desirable state of consciousness, the researchers stress; instead,
it shows that the psychedelic brain state is distinctive and can be
related to other global changes in conscious level (e.g. sleep,
anaesthesia) by application of a simple mathematical measure of signal
diversity. Dr Muthukumaraswamy who was involved in all three initial
studies commented: “That similar changes in signal diversity were found
for all three drugs, despite their quite different pharmacology, is both
very striking and also reassuring that the results are robust and
The findings could help inform discussions gathering momentum
about the carefully-controlled medical use of such drugs, for example in
treating severe depression.
Dr Robin Cahart-Harris of Imperial College London said:
“Rigorous research into psychedelics is gaining increasing attention,
not least because of the therapeutic potential that these drugs may have
when used sensibly and under medical supervision.
“The present study’s findings help us understand what happens
in people’s brains when they experience an expansion of their
consciousness under psychedelics. People often say they experience
insight under these drugs – and when this occurs in a therapeutic
context, it can predict positive outcomes. The present findings may help
us understand how this can happen.”
As well as helping to inform possible medical applications, the
study adds to a growing scientific understanding of how conscious level
(how conscious one is) and conscious content (what one is conscious of)
are related to each other.
Professor Seth said: “We found correlations between the
intensity of the psychedelic experience, as reported by volunteers, and
changes in signal diversity. This suggests that our measure has close
links not only to global brain changes induced by the drugs, but to
those aspects of brain dynamics that underlie specific aspects of
The research team are now working hard to identify how specific
changes in information flow in the brain underlie specific aspects of
psychedelic experience, like hallucinations.
Today I graduated from the University of Sussex with a First Class degree in Art History. What a day it was! I’ve had an amazing three years studying at Sussex (message me if you’d like to know more!) and I cannot wait for my MA course to start there in September. Now for some serious relaxation (translation: now for some serious blogwork!)
Study of bees’ “waggle dance” show bees find it harder to collect nectar and pollen in summer The dance, in which the bee waggles its abdomen while moving in a figure of eight pattern, is performed by returning forager bees in the hive to tell its nest mates where to find good sources of pollen and nectar They may be most active then, but summer is the most challenging season for honey bees to collect nectar and pollen, according to a new study, which analysed the insects’ “waggle dance”. Researchers from the University of Sussex Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) spent two years filming honey bees in glass-fronted observation hives and then decoding their dances to discover how far the bees were having to fly to find sources of food during different seasons. The dance, in which the bee waggles its abdomen while moving in a figure of eight pattern, is performed by returning forager bees in the hive to tell its nest mates where to find good sources of pollen and nectar. It indicates the distance to a patch of flowers from the hive and the direction in which it lies. The bees in the study were able to access the surrounding downland countryside and Brighton and Hove through tube tunnels that opened to the outside of the lab. By examining the waggle dance data, researchers found that in summer, honey bees were covering areas 22 times greater than in spring and six times greater than in the autumn. The study also showed that summer is probably a harder season both because there are fewer suitable flowers but also because there are more insects active at that time, competing with each other for nectar and pollen.
Bee season depends largely on temperature and the seasonal patterns of flowers. After hibernating over the winter, bees awaken in time to collect pollen and nectar from their preferred plants; flowering plants also bloom in correspondence with the arrival of their most effective pollinators. Certain bee species are active pollinators during certain seasons, as native flowering plants and bees have established a relationship throughout their lengthy evolution. Some bees have no seasonal preferences and feed off a variety of flowering plants.
Three of the most commonly encountered bees by homeowners are honey bees, carpenter bees and bumble bees. These bees usually become active in the spring with the warm weather and flowering of plants. They remain active throughout the summer and into the fall. Cooling temperatures in the fall prompt them to prepare to overwinter. During the winter months their activity decreases to the point where they are not seen unless on a warm winter day.
Understanding bee seasons and the flower preferences of certain bee species could facilitate pollination and assist in both commercial and personal gardening.
“I’d just been in Middlesbrough playing football and all of a sudden I was studying stuff about racism. Once my eyes were opened I developed a passion about certain issues. I was a libertarian anarchist. We chained ourselves to things and disrupted exams.” - Bob Mortimer on his life at Sussex University
Elk Make Creepy Shrieks By Whistling Through Their Noses
This is a wapiti, otherwise known as an elk. And this is the sound of its call.
Not only is it a little chilling — researchers compared it to the sound of the ringwraiths from “Lord of the Rings” — but scientists hadn’t yet determined why they sound like this.
See, bigger animals tend to have deeper voices, and the elk shouldn’t be an exception. It has a large voice box built for making deep sounds, not squeaky ones.
Researchers from the University of Sussex decided to put the puzzle to rest by recording elk calls and studying their vocal patterns. Turns out elk actually do produce low sounds, they just make high sounds at the same time.
When the team examined the animals’ throat structures, they discovered elk can make two sounds at once. They use their vocal cords for deep sound, and they make high-pitched whistles with their noses.
So why do elk make two distinct calls? The researchers have a theory: The low-frequency sound communicates the animal’s size to nearby elk, and the high-frequency noise is meant to be heard over long distances — a way for the animal to say, “Hey, I’m here!”
So I thought I would create a list of all the ace-friendly universities I could find. I think there’s a US version of this post? But I’ve never seen a UK one. So here we are. (Explanation of where the information comes from at the bottom of the post.) The newest version of this list can be found here and will hopefully be updated often.
University of the Arts, London
University of Birmingham (have an ace flag on their website)
University of Bristol (ran events during Asexual Awareness Week!)
University of Cambridge
University of Chester (ran AAW events!)
Coventry University (included in their acronym!)
University of Derby (listed in the acronym for some resource from somewhere within the uni?)
Edinburgh Napier University
University of Exeter
University of Hertfordshire
University of Hull
Imperial College London
Kingston University (have run some asexuality workshops!)
University of Leeds (ran AAW events!)
University of Leicester
London University – University College London, Goldsmith’s
University of Manchester (posted an article on David Jay for LGBT history month)
University of Northampton
University of Nottingham
Queen’s University Belfast (ran a 101 session and showed the (A)sexual documentary)
University of Reading
University of Sheffield (lists AVEN on their resources page)
University of South Wales
University of Stirling (appointed an Ace Rep in 2014!)
University of Sussex (seem to have run AAW events)
University of Warwick (have run ace talks and workshops)
University of York (have a page explaining asexuality and specifically promising that aces are welcome in their society!)
And this is the list of unis that don’t mention asexuality: (under the cut because this post is getting long)
Thank you, the University of Sussex. For everyone whose identity doesn’t fit into a neat little box. I may be a cisgender male, but these things make me so happy - that there are nice things in the world.
It may be a simple sign on a disabled loo - but it’s better than nothing. It’s progress.