brain chemistry and mystical experiences

Russell Mast mastrd at ctrvax.Vanderbilt.edu
Sun Oct 10 23:25:16 EST 1993

In article <9310100141.AA13202 at net.bio.net>, ST201334 at BROWNVM.BROWN.EDU
(Kerregador) wrote:
>      Todd Stark mentioned something about Kandel's work on learning
> pathways in Aplysia Californica.  If memory serves me, I believe
> the specific transmitter he found to be involved was serotonin,
> released from axo-axonic synapses.  Hmmm.  Coincidentally or not,
> this has been the transmitter most frequently associated with
> mystical experiences in humans...

This is ridiculous.  I'm sorry to be rude, but seratonin (5-HT) is a
neurotransmitter involved in such a wild variety of different things in the
human brain.  Claiming an association between 5-HT and mystical experiences
is about as revealing as finding a relationship between glucose and mysical
experiences.  IMO, this whole thread started by some poor confused
lay-person who had the idea that there was a simple correlation between
phenomena of experience and brain chemistry.  (I didn't see the head of
this beast, I'm only now jumping in.)  If you're looking to science to
validate the supernatural, neuroscience won't be any better than physics or
any other field. If you're looking to understand a "what happens when I
feel XXX?", well, if I knew that, I'd be famous.  I assure you, however,
that "chemistry" is a ridiculously simple answer.  The chemicals involved
might be worthwhile to know, but you'll want to know the temporal relations
of the activity of millions of cells, as well as the strength of their
connections.  Chemistry is way too simple.

I think there is an association between GABA and mystical experiences.


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