The Neural Correlates of Altered Consciousness: From Hypnosis and Meditation to Drug-Based Changes

Amir Raz, MD

Abstract: There has been growing interest in brain state specification because imaging studies can now trace brain connectivity at rest as well as during heightened activation. In this talk, we highlight recent research on differences among resting, alert, and altered states of consciousness. We explore the neural correlates of maintaining a state or switching between states, and show the neural elements that play a critical role in state maintenance (e.g., anterior cingulate cortex and striatum) relative to those involved in switching between states (e.g., insula). We then outline how brain states may serve as a predictor of performance in a variety of perceptual, memory, and problem solving tasks. We will provide a lens through which we can study both self-propelled states (e.g., hypnosis and meditation) as well as drug-induced states.

Amir Raz, MD, holds the Canada Research Chair in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, and heads both the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at McGill and the Clinical Neuroscience and Applied Cognition Laboratory at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH). He has peer-reviewed publications in such journals as Nature, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Psychological Science, Archives of General Psychiatry, PLoS Medicine, and NeuroImage. Professor Raz is a researcher at the JGH, a member of the faculty of McGill's Department of Psychiatry, and an associate member of the Departments of Neurology & Neurosurgery, Psychology, and the Montreal Neurological Institute. He holds diplomate status with the American Board of Psychological Hypnosis.

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