Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Why this activist is calling for the mass ingestion of psychedelics

Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, called for a mass psychedelic act of civil disobedience in protest of drug criminalization.

Gail Bradbrook addresses a group of protesters during the Extinction Rebellion Strike.

Brais G. Rouco/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • During a conference, Gail Bradbrook, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, an environmentalist social movement, called for people to take psychedelics en masse as an act of civil disobedience.
  • Bradbrook argues that "The causes of the crisis are political, economic, legal and cultural systemic issues but underneath that are issues of human trauma, powerlessness, scarcity and separation," and that "psychedelic medicines are opportunities to help us shift our consciousness."
  • The research on psychedelics does suggest that they could be powerful mediators for personal change and possibly encourage people to become more aware of and concerned for the environment.


Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of the Extinction Rebellion political movement, has called for the mass ingestion of psychedelics to protest the criminalization of drugs.

"I would support a mass civil disobedience where we take medicine to tell the state that they have absolutely no right to control our consciousness and to define our spiritual practice," said Bradbrook during Breaking Convention, a psychedelics conference that was recently held in London.

Named after the Anthropocene extinction — the current and on-going mass extinction event caused by human activity — Extinction Rebellion uses civil disobedience to draw attention to climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

Extinction Rebellion has organized protests throughout the U.K. aimed toward achieving three goals: compelling governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency; to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025; and to have governments form and obey a citizens' assembly in regard to climate and ecological issues.

How do psychedelics tie into Extinction Rebellion's goals?

Bradbrook emphasized that Extinction Rebellion isn't in the business of promoting psychedelic drug use, but she has previously expressed that psychedelics were a powerful motivator for her to form the social movement. In an article she wrote for the journal Emerge, Bradbrook said "people on psychedelics report a deeply felt sense of peace, oneness and unity with the planet which has been shown to have a profound and enduring effect on the way they live their lives."

The transformative power of psychedelics could be a way to encourage people to become more active in finding solutions to the climate crisis. "The causes of the crisis are political, economic, legal, and cultural systemic issues but underneath that are issues of human trauma, powerlessness, scarcity, and separation," said Bradbrook at the convention. "The system resides within us and the psychedelic medicines are opportunities to help us shift our consciousness."

Would this really work?

There's no denying that psychedelics have the potential to completely change people's perspectives and behavior. In an interview with Big Think, author Michael Pollan explained psychedelics' primary action in the brain, where they suppress the default mode network. "The brain is a hierarchical system and the default mode network appears to be at the top; it's kind of the orchestra conductor or corporate executive," explains Pollan. However, sometimes the default mode network can be excessively controlling and trap us in mental and behavioral habits. Pollen explains how:

"Many of the disorders that psychedelics appear to treat well are manifestations of a stuck brain, a brain that is locked in loops, a mind that's telling itself destructive stories, like 'I can't get through the day without a cigarette. I'm unworthy of love. My work is shit.' … And that relief from that dictator is exactly what some people need to free themselves from habits — mental habits and behavioral habits."

This kind of reboot could, for example, be used to convince people that something can be done about climate change. Research has shown that psychedelics can reset the brain, snapping people out of depression, so maybe it can snap people out of hopelessness about the future. "If we have a tool for behavior change, that's a huge deal," said Pollan. "I mean, I know, having worked on food for many years, that changing people's food habits as adults is almost impossible. We are creatures of habit in many, many ways."

In addition to freeing us from mental and behavioral habits, psychedelics (specifically, psilocybin) have been shown to increase people's perceived connection with nature and to decrease authoritarian beliefs. There is both empirical and anecdotal evidence that authoritarianism is associated with a disregard for the environment, so the mass ingestion of magic mushrooms could not only make people feel more connected to the environment, but also make them less likely to hold anti-environmental political beliefs.

Admittedly, anybody interested in participating in Bradbrook's call to take psychedelics en masse probably doesn't hold too many authoritarian beliefs to begin with. Instead, those who stand to benefit the most from this mind-bending act of civil disobedience are the many concerned individuals who have yet to really act in any meaningful way beyond a Facebook post or a tweet. A trip could be just the push they need.


Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
Keep reading Show less

Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

Keep reading Show less

Our ‘little brain’ turns out to be pretty big

The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.

Image source: Sereno, et al
Mind & Brain
  • A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
  • The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
  • This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.

Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

A neural crêpe

A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.

So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.

The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."

Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum

Image source: Sereno, et al.

A complicated map

Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."

That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.

It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."

This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."

Bigger and bigger

The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.

"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."

As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."

Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."

Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

A homeless man faces Wall Street

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
Keep reading Show less
Videos

Unhappy at work? How to find meaning and maintain your mental health

Finding a balance between job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle is not easy.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast