Self unbound: ego dissolution in psychedelic experience

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Users of psychedelic drugs often report that their sense of being a self or ‘I’ distinct from the rest of the world has diminished or altogether dissolved. Neuroscientific study of such ‘ego dissolution’ experiences offers a window onto the nature of self-awareness. We argue that ego dissolution is best explained by an account that explains self-awareness as resulting from the integrated functioning of hierarchical predictive models which posit the existence of a stable and unchanging entity to which representations are bound. Combining recent work on the ‘integrative self' and the phenomenon of self-binding with predictive processing principles yields an explanation of ego dissolution according to which self-representation is a useful Cartesian fiction: an ultimately false representation of a simple and enduring substance to which attributes are bound which serves to integrate and unify cognitive processing across levels and domains. The self-model is not a mere narrative posit, as some have suggested; it has a more robust and ubiquitous cognitive function than that. But this does not mean, as others have claimed, that the self-model has the right attributes to qualify as a self. It performs some of the right kinds of functions, but it is not the right kind of entity. Ego dissolution experiences reveal that the self-model plays an important binding function in cognitive processing, but the self does not exist.
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The Entropic Brain: A Theory of Conscious States Informed by Neuroimaging Research with Psychedelic Drugs.Carhart-Harris, Robin L.; Leech, Robert; Hellyer, Peter J.; Shanahan, Murray; Feilding, Amanda; Tagliazucchi, Enzo; Chialvo, Dante R. & Nutt, David
What About the “Self” is Processed in the Posterior Cingulate Cortex?Brewer, Judson A.; Garrison, Kathleen A. & Whitfield-Gabrieli, Susan

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Citations of this work BETA
Precise Worlds for Certain Minds: An Ecological Perspective on the Relational Self in Autism.Constant, Axel; Bervoets, Jo; Hens, Kristien & Van de Cruys, Sander
Psychedelics, Meditation, and Self-Consciousness.Millière, Raphaël; Carhart-Harris, Robin L.; Roseman, Leor; Trautwein, Fynn-Mathis & Berkovich-Ohana, Aviva

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