What's the Latest Development?

Sophisticated computer algorithms are helping researchers better understand the effects of psychedelic trips by analyzing narrative reports written by people using mind-altering drugs. "Matthew Baggott of the University of Chicago and colleagues used machine-learning algorithms – a type of artificial intelligence that can learn about a given subject by analysing massive amounts of data – to examine 1000 reports uploaded to the website Erowid by people who had taken mind-altering drugs." Based on the frequency with which certain words appear, scientists could identify the drug taken with about 50% accuracy. 

What's the Big Idea?

Scientists still have a poor understanding of how psychedelic drugs work on the mind to alter perceptions and intensify emotional experiences, and with new drugs coming on the market under the name of 'bath salts' and 'incense,' now is an important time to better comprehend their effects. "Baggott hopes the work will aid research into the effects of new and existing drugs. 'You need to start with some theories about the effects of a drug,' he says. 'Machine learning can help us form those theories.'" No word yet on what researchers could gain by simulating a psychedelic experience on technology that imitates our brain, not to mention a tripping robot. 

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