Heather Hargraves

Heather Hargraves

Heather Hargraves

I am a MA student in Counselling Psychology at Western University, in London, Ontario, Canada. My Masters thesis is investigating a new form of EEG-neurofeedback based on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic states as revealed on EEG. I recently co-authored an article in Psychological Assessment with Dr. Frewen investigating the Mindful Breath Attention Score (MBAS) as a measure of focused attention during meditation in an online sample, based on methods I also undertook with students during my honors thesis. I also hold a BAH in Philosophy from the University of Windsor. Between my degrees’ I traveled and worked as a yoga instructor, body worker and meditation teacher.

TITLE: Psychedelic Informed Neurofeedback

Background: Positive outcomes linked to experiences of altered states of consciousness (ASC) have been associated with various brain wave patterns, as well as both positive (openness) and negative personality traits and affective disorders. Various innovative neurofeedback (NFB) technologies are being developed in an attempt to create adjunctive therapeutic treatments.

Objective: The current pilot study investigated psychedelic informed NFB to induce ASC and examine associations between NFB, ASC, mood changes, and trait predictors.

Methods: 48 students completed the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), a 6-factor measure of personality (HEXACO), and a measure of trait absorption. Participants then completed 15min of NFB. The Profile of Mood States (POMS) was administered before and after the NFB session and the Altered States of Consciousness Questionnaire (OAV) at the end of session.

Results: POMS scores indicated significant reductions in vigor and tension, with a significant increase in fatigue from pre to post NFB. Higher BSI correlated with higher disembodiment, impaired cognition and control, anxiety, elementary imagery, and audio-visual synaesthesia. Some participants evidenced reduced targeted amplitudes and increased Gamma (>35 Hz) amplitude during the intervention (analysis ongoing).

Conclusion: Preliminary findings indicate that participants responded to NFB on the OAV and EEG in a pattern not unlike previous reports of ASC induced by psychedelic drugs (psilocybin and MDMA). Qualitative analyses indicate similarity to cognitive-affective response to very low dose LSD & Mescaline (Fadiman, 2011).

Future research will include a randomized control trial, including a sham and control conditions. Case studies were recently completed of 6 individuals, receiving psychedelic informed neurofeedback, twice a week over a 2 month period. Case studies included a deeper analysis of Set (Person) Predictors of Individual Differences in Response, including Trait Absorption, Hypnotic Susceptibility (to ASC, Dissociative Experiences). Overall this research is intended to contribute toward the future goal of combining NFB with Psychedelic Medicine approaches to augment psychotherapy.