I am currently collaborating with the Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology of Imperial College London on a placebo-controlled neuroimaging study led by Christopher Timmermann investigating the effects of the potent psychedelic drug N,N-DMT. I am using the micro-phenomenological interview (MPI) technique to get more insight into the range of subjective experiences induced by this molecule. MPI aims at eliciting fined-grained post-hoc descriptions of the subjective experience of a participant over a short period of time, while avoiding the biases of naïve introspection and confabulation. I have been trained to use MPI by Claire Petitmengin who designed the technique.
We included post-hoc MPI in the design of the experiment as a complement to self-report questionnaires. I conducted interviews with each participants, after the administration of intravenous DMT (subjective effects last for about 15 min, and interviews were conducted after the effects had subsided), and subsequently analyzed the interview data. During the DMT-induced experience itself (and the placebo session), participants had to give a rating of the intensity of their experience from 0 to 10 every minute (prompted by an audio cue). These minute-by-minute intensity ratings were used as temporal anchors during the interview, as participants spontaneously recalled their occurrence. During the analysis of the data, I was subsequently able to correlate the different experiential phases described by the participant with the objective chronology of the experiment, using the recalls of intensity ratings as temporal anchors. This allowed us to obtain novel neurophenomenological correlations, correlating neuroimaging data with specific phases of the subjective experience described by participants (which is impossible to do with self-report questionnaires that have no temporal resolution).
After piloting the study with EEG, we are now using combined EEG and fMRI. The main results of the pilot study are presented in a paper under review. I am also preparing a paper with Christopher Timmermann focusing more closely on the phenomenological data obtained through MPI. One of my goals in collaborating on this study was to shed light on the familiy of effects reported as drug-induced ego dissolution, and break down specific components such as the loss of bodily awareness. The data we have obtained from MPI is of particular interest to my research program on self-consciousness (these data are discussed in my dissertation as well as a recent publication)
[This page will be updated with our results]