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An altered state of consciousness (ASC),[1] also called altered state of mind, is any condition which is significantly different from a normal waking beta wave state. The expression was used as early as 1966 by Arnold M. Ludwig[2] and brought into common usage from 1969 by Charles Tart.[3][4] It describes induced changes in one's mental state, almost always temporary. A synonymous phrase is "altered state of awareness".

Altered states of consciousness can be associated with artistic creativity[5] or different focus levels. They also can be shared interpersonally and studied as a subject of sociological research.[6]

Causes[edit | edit source]

Accidental/pathological[edit | edit source]

An altered state of consciousness can come about accidentally through, for example, fever, infections such as meningitis,[7] sleep deprivation, fasting, oxygen deprivation, nitrogen narcosis (deep diving), psychosis,[8] temporal lobe epilepsy or a traumatic accident. Altered states of consciousness also occur in healthy women experiencing childbirth,[9] hence the introduction of the term gender-specific states of consciousness.[10]

Intentional/recreational/spiritual/religious[edit | edit source]

An ASC can sometimes be reached intentionally by the use of sensory deprivation, an isolation tank, sleep deprivation, lucid dreaming, hypnosis, meditation, prayer, or disciplines (e.g. Mantra Meditation, Yoga, Sufism, dream yoga.)

ASCs can also be attained through the ingestion of psychoactive drugs such as alcohol and opiates, but more commonly with traditional hallucinogens of indigenous cultures, such as cannabis, dimethyltryptamine, psilocybin mushrooms, Peyote and Ayahuasca. Other modern hallucinogens that some attempt to use for a similar purpose are for example, (D)-methorphan, Lysergic acid diethylamide or one of the drugs belonging to the classes of substituted tryptamines, substituted phenethylamines and substituted amphetamines.

States of consciousness[edit | edit source]


Typology[edit | edit source]

Template:Confusing section During an altered state of consciousness, brain waves occupy different categories of frequencies (i.e. Epsilon, Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, Gamma). These waves can be measured using an Electroencephalograph (EEG). Below is a list of wave types, along with their corresponding frequencies and states of consciousness:

  • Epsilon: 0.00–0.05 Hz
Epsilon wave patterns have not been heavily studied; however, they may be connected to intense meditative states.[citation needed]
Delta brainwave patterns characterize slow wave sleep.
  • Theta: 4–8 Hz Normal deep sleep state.
Theta waves are produced between dreams, and represent an "interlude" between dreams. The waves tend to last 15–30 minutes between REM states.
  • Alpha: 8–12 Hz Typical dream state.
Alpha waves can be seen in persons watching movies or television narratives in which they are fully engrossed, mostly unaware of their surroundings.
Beta waves correspond to normal conscious brain activity, ranging from calm and relaxed consciousness, to fight-or-flight panic.
As the ability to measure brainwave frequency has significantly improved with advances in digital technology, it has become possible and practical to measure brainwave frequencies beyond 30 Hz. As more is learned about these brainwaves, a change in classifications may occur. The beta-wave level of consciousness seems to extend well beyond 30 Hz, but frequencies of 90 Hz or more (gamma waves), are shown to be associated with coordination of signals across longer distances within the brain, facilitating the completion of complex actions or associations which require the simultaneous use of multiple brain regions.

Researcher and theorists in this area[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]


References[edit | edit source]

  1. Bundzen PV, Korotkov KG, Unestahl LE (April 2002). Altered states of consciousness: review of experimental data obtained with a multiple techniques approach. J Altern Complement Med 8 (2): 153–65.
  2. (September 1966). Altered States of Consciousness (presentation to symposium on Possession States in Primitive People). Archives of General Psychiatry 15 (3): 225.
  3. Tart, Charles T. (1969). Altered States of Consciousness: A Book of Readings, New York: Wiley.
  4. Tart, Charles T. (2001). States of Consciousness, Backinprint.com.
  5. Lombardo GT (2007). An inquiry into the sources of poetic vision: Part I – the path to inspiration. J Am Acad Psychoanal Dyn Psychiatry 35 (3): 351–71.
  6. Spivak D (1999). Altered states of society: a tentative approach: 33–42.
  7. Oill PA (July 1976). Infectious disease emergencies. Part 1: Patients presenting with an altered state of consciousness. West. J. Med. 125 (1): 36–46.
  8. Kokoszka, Andrzej (2007). States of Consciousness: Models for Psychology and Psychotherapy, London: Springer.
  9. Gruzdev N. V., Spivak D. L. (2006). An exploratory investigation into the association of neuroticization, cognitive style, and spirituality to reported altered states of consciousness in women experiencing childbirth. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 25 (1): 56–61.
  10. D. L. Spivak, N. P. Bechtereva, S. G. Danko, L. I. Spivak, K. Wistrand (1998). Gender-specific altered states of consciousness. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies (2): 181–185.
  • James, William The varieties of religious experience (1902) ISBN 0-14-039034-0

Further reading[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]


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