Psychedelics may re-awaken patients who are minimally conscious

An estimated 2.4 million people a year sustain traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. Gregory Scott and Robin Carhart-Harris proposed offering Psylocibin, the principal Psychoactive agent in Magic Mushrooms, to the patients of around 50 clinicians and therapists to help their patients who are in “vegetative” or minimally conscious states, called disorders of consciousness (DOC), to induce transformative changes in their brain function. It was an out of box idea, but the audiences were intrigued. The study proposed was founded upon a seminal study from 2017 by Carhart-Harris, head of centre for Psychedelic research at Imperial College London – which studied LSD, Psilocybin, Ketamine and placebos effects on the brain. To date, tested therapies include pharmacological to brain-invasive interventions, however none have had lasting effects to restoring conscious awareness to patients in unresponsive wakefulness.

In Neuroscience, ‘complexity’ refers to how many different types of possible patterns of brain activity which can happen over a period of time. This ‘complexity’ in the brain is tightly linked to person’s intensity of conscious experience. Scott says, his plan is to carry out a study to measure ‘complexity’ level in the brain of DoC patients of differing severities while on Psychedelics. Now, the most important question for Scott and Carhart-Harris is whether Psychedelics would restore conscious experience for patients in states of unresponsive wakefulness.

Although Psychedelics provide unique transformative effects on the functioning of the brain, researchers still are far from understanding the neuroscience of conscious perception. Scott says, “like all these interventions, it might be case that small proportions of patients have benefits, and that, in and of itself, is good enough reason to pursue it.”



  1. Moens J., 2020, Awakening the Mind, Double Blind Magazine, Vol. 3, p14-17