Altered states of consciousness serve as a sort of psychological goldmine in the scientific evaluation of perception. In its quest to examine different states of consciousness without altering the subject’s neurophysiology, a research group from Sussex University has engineered the “Hallucination Machine.”
A tool that will enable researchers to conduct analyses of a studied group’s consciousness without administering a psychoactive substance that will temporarily affect brain function, perception, mood, and behavior, the Hallucination Machine subverts the scientific application of a drug like LSD through its use of virtual reality. The Hallucination Machine simulates “visual hallucinatory experiences in a biologically plausible and ecologically valid way,” creating illusionary scenes that are characteristic of a psychedelic induced trip through a head-mounted, panoramic VR display. The display, titled “DeepDream,” renders the use of mind-altering substances unnecessary in its ability to invent a constructed experience commensurate with that of a drug prompted trip. Researchers moreover determined that although capable of producing a comparable visual landscape, DeepDream does not result in the “temporal distortion commonly associated with altered states,” signifying that a study carried out in conjunction with DeepDream can be both orderly and time controlled.
The Sussex University’s examination observed the effects of the DeepDream technology on 12 volunteers, who witnessed visuals akin to those caused by the ingredient in magic mushrooms, psilocybin. An invention that possesses the power to dramatically advance the researchers’ study of altered consciousness, the Hallucination Machine has the power to transform scientific consciousness assessment. The researchers’ full study can be read here.