However the scientists stressed the higher levels seen in people on the psychedelic drugs was not actually "better".
Until those studies take place, it might be helpful to keep this point in mind: Even if you don't have concrete proof that you've reached a different state of consciousness doesn't disqualify the fact that you feel like you have. Theories of consciousness are not based exclusively on signal diversity after all.It is hoped, nevertheless, that this research could help us better understand the workings of the three drugs tested, and fuel further research into how they could be used for medicinal purposes, for example as treatments of depression.
The research builds on data gathered about a year ago by a team at Imperial College London, which dosed up volunteers with psychedelics, including LSD, psilocybin and ketamine, then scanned their brains with magnetoencephalographic (MEG) techniques to examine the effects.
"This finding shows that the brain-on-psychedelics behaves very differently from normal", says Anil Seth, corresponding author of the study.
For this study, the scientists reanalysed data gathered in earlier experiments by Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff in the United Kingdom, where volunteers were given psilocybin, ketamine, or LSD.
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While the results may seem as a vindication for advocates of psychedelic drugs, Seth told The Independent that this heightened consciousness really only exists in a mathematical sense, as neural activity in certain areas of the brain is higher than normal.
Neural signal diversity has been studied before, but usually in less active and more predictable states of consciousness, as in people who are asleep or in a vegetative state. From wakefulness down to a deep coma, consciousness is on a sliding scale measured by the diversity of brain signals, and the researchers found that when under the influence of psychedelic drugs, that diversity jumps to new heights above the everyday baseline.
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 latest research can help scientists better understand how these drugs impact the human brain, and how they might be harnessed to treat mental health problems.
Dr Suresh Muthukumaraswamy, from the University of Auckland, said: "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 repeatable". "The findings may help us understand how this can happen".
"Our findings of reliable changes in signal diversity in the psychedelic state suggest that further research could usefully consider less common alterations of consciousness, for example manic, dreamlike, delirious conditions".