Cognitive alterations

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Cognitive alterations can be defined as any cognitive effect which alters and distorts the behavior of a pre-existing mental function.

This page lists and describes the various cognitive distortions which can occur under the influence of certain psychoactive compounds.

Cognitive dysphoria

Main article: Cognitive dysphoria

Dysphoria (semantically the opposite of euphoria) is medically recognized as a cognitive and emotional state in which a person experiences intense feelings of discomfort and unhappiness. It is often accompanied by strong feelings of anxiety and depression.[1] These feelings can vary in their intensity depending on the dosage consumed and the users susceptibility to mental instability. Although dysphoria is an effect,[2] the term is also used colloquially to define an intense state of general melancholic unhappiness combined with an overwhelming sense of discomfort and malaise.

In the context of psychoactive substance usage, many compounds induce states of dysphoria regardless of the person's previous emotional state. It is most commonly induced under the influence of common dosages of deliriants or during the after effects of almost any stimulant compound.

Cognitive euphoria

Main article: Cognitive euphoria

Cognitive euphoria (semantically the opposite of cognitive dysphoria) is medically recognized as a cognitive and emotional state in which a person experiences intense feelings of well-being, elation, happiness, excitement, and joy.[3] Technically, euphoria is an effect,[4] but the term is often colloquially used to define emotion and an intense state of transcendent happiness combined with an overwhelming sense of contentment. It has also been defined as an "affective state of exaggerated well-being or elation."[5]

In terms of drug usage, many substances induce states of euphoria regardless of the person's previous emotional state. These feelings can range from mild senses of positivity to overwhelming emotional bliss.

Conceptual thinking

Main article: Conceptual thinking

Conceptual thinking can be described as an alteration in the content of one's internal narrative or thought stream. This alteration results in the ability to think thoughts which are no longer primarily comprised of linear words and linguistic sentence structures. Instead one's thoughts become in equal measure simultaneously comprised of the internally stored concepts which words exist to label.

For example, if one were to think the word "Internet" during this state, they would not just hear the word as part of their thought stream, but would also feel in a comprehensive level of detail the internally stored, non-linguistic and innately readable data, code and information which comprises the specific concept labelled within one's vocabulary as "Internet."

During this experience, conceptual thinking allows one to feel not just the entirety of a concept's attributed data in the form of pure information, but also how these concepts relate with, connect to, fit in with and depend upon all other known concepts. This results in one feeling as if they can truly comprehend the precise consequences, limitations, and position within this universe of any singular concept which they happen to be currently contemplating.

The experience of this effect is commonly interpreted by those who undergo it as a "higher level of understanding" as it results in the perceived ability of being able to think about ideas in a level of detail and insight unparalleled within the primarily linguistic thought structure of everyday life. This suggests that human language may well be intrinsically self-limited through the way in which words can only act as mere shortcuts to the concepts which they exist to describe.

Enhancement and suppression cycles

Enhancement and suppression cycles can be described as effect which results in two alternate states of mind which do not occur simultaneously but instead swap between each other at seemingly random intervals of generally 10 - 30 minutes in length, but sometimes even more rapidly.

The first of these two alternate states can be described as the experience of cognitive suppression. This includes specific effects such as thought deceleration, thought disorganization and suppression of information processing.

The second of these two alternate states can be described as the experience of cognitive enhancements. This includes analysis enhancement and connectivity of thought.

Perceived exposure to inner mechanics of consciousness

Perceived exposure to inner mechanics of consciousness can be described as a transpersonal experience in which one feels as if they are being exposed to an array of complex cognitive sensations which contain detailed sets of innately readable, otherwise inaccessible information. This information manifests itself in such a way that it is felt to convey the organization, structure, architecture, framework and inner mechanics of the underlying programming behind all conscious and subconscious psychological processes and their neural substrates. This effect is most commonly interpreted by those who undergo the experience as suddenly having perceivable access to the inner workings of either the universe, reality, or consciousness itself.

The experience of this component is one that appears to uplink specific pieces of information onto the one in this transpersonal state (hallucinogen-induced or not) regarding the nature of reality and human consciousness through the simple experience of themselves as an undifferentiated sentience. Examples of these are difficult to fully define but common sensations, revelations, and concepts are manifested. These generally include:

  • Insight into the processes behind the direction, latency, and tendencies of one's conscious thought stream.
  • Insight into the processes behind the organization, structure, and content of one's immediate, short and long-term memory feedback loops.
  • Insight into the selection and behavior of one's responses to external input and decision-making processes as based upon their individually conditioned personality.

These specific pieces of information are often felt and described to be a profound unveiling of a reality-transforming truth at the time but are afterward usually realized to be ineffable due to the limitations of human language or simply incommunicable nonsense due to the disorientation induced by the overwhelming tide of other cognitive effects that typically accompany this effect.

A vastly more complex and detailed account of this effect is manifested during the experience of Level 8B Geometry.

Multiple thought streams

Multiple thought streams can be defined as a state in which one has more than one internal narrative or stream of consciousness occurring within their mind. This can result in any number of conscious thought streams within one's mind, each of which are often controllable in an identical level to that of one's everyday thought stream. This experience allows one to think about and analyse many different subjects and concepts simultaneously and can be a source of great insight.

Simultaneous emotions

Main article: Simultaneous emotions

Simultaneous emotions can be described as the experience of feeling multiple or all emotions simultaneously. This can result in states of mind which the user will feel conflicting emotions of any combination such as simultaneous happiness, sadness, love, hate, etc.

Although this effect could potentially occur under the influence of any hallucinogen, it has thus far only been confirmed to occur with psilocin, LSD and the DXM & DPH combination.

Spatial disorientation

Spatial disorientation can be described as the inability to orient oneself in 3-dimensional space. In this state, one cannot distinguish up from down, right from left, or any two different directions from another. One might also perceive the world as being flipped sideways or even upside down.

This effect is relatively uncommon and occurs mostly on high doses of dissociatives, particularly when experiencing holes, spaces and voids. This effect is generally described as mildly confusing and is sometimes accompanied by changes in gravity and dizziness.

Subconscious communication

Subconscious communication can be described as the experience of engaging in linguistic conversations with a disembodied and separate audible voice of unknown origin residing within one's own head. This voice is often capable of directly manipulating various aspects and intensities of one's trip and will either clearly explain the logic behind its decisions or choose to keep it a mystery.

As a whole, the effect itself can be broken down into 5 distinct levels of progressive intensity, each of which are listed and described below.

  1. A sensed presence of the other - This level can be defined as the distinctive feeling that another form of consciousness is internally present alongside that of one's usual sense of self.[6][7][8][9]
  2. Mutually generated internal responses - This level can be defined as internal linguistic responses to one's own thoughts and feelings which feel as if they are partially generated by one's own thought stream and in equal measure by that of a separate thought stream.
  3. Separately generated internal responses - This level can be defined as internal linguistic responses to one's own thoughts and feelings which feel as if they are generated by an entirely separate thought stream from one's own.
  4. Separately generated audible internal responses - This level can be defined as internal linguistic responses to one's own thoughts and feelings which are perceived as a clearly defined and audible voice within one's head. These can take on a variety of voices, accents and dialects, but usually sound identical to one's own spoken voice.
  5. Separately generated audible external responses - This level can be defined as internal linguistic responses to one's own thoughts and feelings which are perceived as a clearly defined and audible voice which sounds as if it is coming from outside one's own head. These can take on a variety of voices, accents and dialects, but usually sound identical to one's own spoken voice.

The speaker behind this voice is innately interpreted by those who experience communication with it to be either that of one's subconscious, the psychoactive substance itself or even supernatural concepts such as god, spirits, souls and ancestors.

The conversational style of that which is discussed between both the voice and its host can be described as essentially identical in terms of its coherency and linguistic intelligibility as that of any other everyday interaction between the self and another human being with which one might engage in conversation with.

There are, however, some subtle but identifiable differences between this experience and that of normal everyday conversations, each of which stem from the factor that one's specific set of knowledge, memories and experiences are identical to that of the voice which is being communicated with. This key factor results in a conversation in which both participants share a noticeably identical vocabulary down to the very use of their colloquial slang and subtle mannerisms.

As a result of this, no matter how in depth and detailed the discussion becomes, no entirely new information is ever exchanged between the two communicators. Instead, the discussion focuses primarily on building upon old ideas and discussing new opinions or perspectives regarding the previously established content of one's life.

Effect analysis

The experience of communicating with hallucinated voices has been well established with and without the use of hallucinogenic drugs through scientific study. For example, one study successfully demonstrated that anybody can encounter a dialogue between themselves and a voice of unknown origin under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms. This study interviewed 128 participants with an approximate total of 3,427 psilocybin mushroom experiences between them and revealed that 35.9% (46) of the participants reported voices whilst 64% (82) did not.[10]

Even outside of these drug-induced experiences, hearing voices within one's head is a well documented psychological phenomena and can generally be considered as a harmless or sometimes even helpful state of mind to find oneself in (despite its social stigma and associations with schizophrenia).[11][12]

Thought loops

Main article: Thought loops

Thought loops can be described as the experience of becoming trapped within a chain of thoughts, actions and emotions which repeat themselves over and over again in a cyclic loop. They are most likely to occur during states of memory suppression and the failure of one's short-term memory.

This suggests that thought loops are the result of cognitive processes becoming unable to sustain themselves for appropriate lengths of time due to a lapse in short-term memory, resulting in the thought process attempting to restart from the beginning only to fall short once again in a perpetual cycle.

This component can be extremely disorientating and often triggers states of progressive anxiety within the people who may be unfamiliar with the experience. The most effective way to end a cycle of thought loops is to simply sit down and try to let go.

Time distortion

Main article: Time distortion

Time distortion is an effect that makes the passage of time difficult to keep track of and wildly distorted. It is usually felt in two different forms: time expansion and time compression. It can, however, also be experienced through forms of perceived repetition which result in what are known as time loops.

Time expansion

The most common of these is time expansion. Time expansion can be described as the feeling that time has slowed down. This seems to stem from the fact that during an intense hallucinogenic trip, abnormally large amounts of experience are felt in very short periods of time. This creates the illusion that more time has passed than actually has. For example, at the end of certain experiences one may feel that they have undergone any number of days, weeks, months, years or even eternal and infinite periods of time.

In some less common scenarios, this can result in the concept of time itself no longer making any plausible sense to the individual. In these cases, the user’s mind typically cannot grasp or consciously process simple everyday concepts. As some describe, the effect can feel as though linear time or the subjectively perceived laws of the universe have undergone some kind of metaphysical inflation or ineffable transformation, but these results are rare and inconsistent.

Though the effect of time expansion in general can be felt with virtually any hallucinogen, it is often experienced most consistently and profoundly with the tryptamine psychedelics such as psilocin and DMT. Studies have demonstrated that psilocin, the active compound in psychedelic mushrooms, significantly impairs subjects' ability to gauge time intervals longer than 2.5 seconds, impairs their ability to synchronize to inter-beat intervals longer than 2 seconds, and reduces their "preferred" tapping rate. These results are consistent with the drug's role in affecting prefrontal cortex activity, and the role that the prefrontal cortex is known to play in time perception.

Time compression

The second form, time compression, is more common within stimulating substances than hallucinogens. It can be described as the experience of time speeding up and passing much quicker than it usually would when sober.

Time loops

The third and most inconsistent form, time loops, is more common with LSD than that of any other traditional or commonly used psychedelic. This can be described as feeling as though time and real life events are repeating themselves often in a continuous cyclic rhythm. This usually feels like time is no longer being perceived in a linear fashion so real life scenarios that only physically occurred once can appear to occur multiples times in a row when the user is having this experience. This particular form of time distortion often leads to confusion and is most of the time only temporary.

See also


  1. Medical dictionary Dysphoria -
  2. Key DSM-IV Mental Status Exam Phrases -
  3. Rightdiagnosis Euphoria -
  4. Key DSM-IV Mental Status Exam Phrases -
  5. A Dictionary of Psychology in Politics & Social Sciences) Oxford
  6. James, W. (1890; 1950). Principles of Psychology, Volume II. New York, Dover Publications, pp. 322-3.
  7. Green and McCreery, Apparitions, op.cit., p.118.
  8. Slade and Bentall, op.cit., p.23.
  10. Listening for the Logos: a study of reports of audible voices at high doses of psilocybin |
  11. In Your Head: Hearing Voices |