Note: we continue our multi-part series on the science of ketamine.

Last month, NPR reported that “scientists were able to reproduce the altered state often associated with ketamine by inducing certain brain cells to fire together in a slow, rhythmic fashion.”  This finding sheds some light on how ketamine works and the brain states that are part of the healing process during and after a ketamine infusion.

One such brain state is known as dissociation, a state where one may feel disconnected from their thoughts, feelings, memories, and surroundings. It can affect one’s perception of time and familiar things might start to feel unfamiliar.  There is a link between dissociation and the anti-depressive effect of ketamine, and it’s essential that the dose is sufficient to achieve this state.

While studying dissociation in mice given ketamine (or other drugs that cause dissociation), the scientists monitored activity in the mice’s brain cells.  They discovered a very distinct rhythm in the area of the brain involved in learning and navigation: firing 3 times per second.  Applying this discovery, the team was able to artificially generate this rhythm in the brains of mice and the mice then behaved as if they had been given ketamine. Once the specific rhythm began, the scientists could see that brain areas that had previously been working together were now out of sync.  They could see dissociation happening.

The team was able to work with a very unique patient, where they were able to observe the rhythm of firing brain cells.  This particular patient had a form of epilepsy that sometimes caused dissociation, and sure enough, while the patient was dissociating, a rhythm appeared.  What’s more, when the team artificially generated the rhythm, the “patient immediately reported having an out-of-body experience.”  It is premature to draw definitive conclusions from a single individual.  However, this is a profound discovery, and may help in better understanding brain rhythms, dissociation and altered states of consciousness.

For those interested in the NPR article: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/09/16/913565163/scientists-discover-way-to-induce-altered-state-of-mind-without-drugs

For those interested in the original article: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02505-z.

In Glenwood Springs, CO, our integrative medicine clinic and ketamine treatment center offers ketamine infusions, integrative medicine, and acupuncture.  Dr. Stoner believes there are many paths to health. Her approach to integrative medicine is to work with our patients to choose the science-based tools from a full range of medical traditions and alternative/complementary modalities that optimize their individual mental and physical health. She will work with you and your other health and wellness providers to truly integrate your care.

We specialize in treatment for those suffering from major depression, the depressed phase of bipolar disorder (bipolar depression), postpartum depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), and addiction.

We utilize conventional and alternative modalities to help our patients be the best they can be, given what they have and where they’re starting. If you or someone close to you would benefit from our services, please contact us today to schedule an appointment and/or learn how we can help you awaken to a new life.