The Fizz

I had recently published a piece relating to the neuroplasticity underlying the practice of meditation (specifically, Wim Hof’s breathing meditation). 

The article featured an interview with neurologist Dr. Sarah Mulukutna, and it had been, by far, one of the most enlightening question and answer pieces I’ve had the privilege of putting together. 

Upon publishing the interview, I had been smacked head-first with the stunning and exciting realization that much of the points relating to neuroplasticity are as applicable for micro-dosing as they are for meditation. 

In other words, the applicability of our neurological understanding relating to thinking patterns is something that can shine a vivid, if not a favorable, light onto other practices relating to self-awareness — or, as Sarah termed it, self-referential thinking.

One such practice, trending momentously of late, is that of micro-dosing. 

And so I figured to overlay what Sarah mentioned regarding neuroplasticity onto my own experiences, and the experiences of several of my colleagues, with microdosing psilocybin — a practice that bubbles up desired modes of perception from the subconscious to the surface consciousness. 

My conclusions, despite being largely subjective, seem to be self-evidently convincing in the way that they fit so adequately within one another; that micro-dosing, for the purposes of self-referential development, can prove an effective method (likely even more effective than meditation or other forms of self-development/self-awareness) for building new neural networks and instigating structural changes in the brain, changes that prove favorable towards whatever ends we seek to achieve. 

Don’t believe me? 

I have to first establish something of an unspoken rule when it comes to presenting any sort of material that is pro-psilocybin or, maybe more appropriate, pro-psychedelic: until you’ve tried it, you can’t really form an assumption on it one way or another.

When it comes to micro-dosing psilocybin, something I’ve spent quite a bit of time and energy studying, this rule applies just as firmly. So all I can do is to try my best to elucidate how micro-dosing impacts the mind and how, specifically, this can be all the more enlightening under a context of neuroplasticity (and under a more general context of self-awareness).

Keep in mind, micro-dosing isn’t something that’s done for fun. It’s not something done to make life more entertaining or to make our interaction with the world more pleasurable. This is a paradigm that ought to be (and slowly is) broken down in time and collective social experience.

For the most part, micro-dosing psilocybin is about self-improvement, in some shape or form — perhaps in cognitive function, perhaps in mood enhancement, perhaps in athletic capability and sportive focus. It offers a cornucopia of benefits when handled in the right way, one that makes energy supplements or anti-depressants seem primitive by contrast. 

It constructs certain bridges between the conscious and the subconscious — a method of introspection on overdrive that allows one unique access to the usually more reserved parts of the mind. 

Moreover, it’s really not that big of a deal. We’re not talking a mind-bending dose that leaves one licking walls or incessantly declaring platitudes. Strength wise, it’s akin to the effects of caffeine on a tired mind or waking up on the very right side of the bed. 

Finally, and this is the main bit to justify the lack of brevity above, micro-dosing almost always comes with a subjective goal to achieve something; to be better at something; to employ a better perspective about something. It takes the subconscious desires and, like carbonated fluid, fizzes them up to the surface. 

This, in my opinion, is why micro-dosing offers such a potent and limitless sense of possibility when examined under the context of neuroplasticity.

Meditation and/is Microdosing

When we’re talking about neuroplasticity (again, under a context of self-improvement), we’re talking about changing our thinking patterns; of breaking free from our default mode networks (DMN — an abbreviation to get used to). 

In so doing, we’re forming new habits. 

When I had interviewed Dr. Mulukutla regarding the function of the brain with respect to meditation practices, she espoused a rather critical notion that can’t be overstated: 

“It has been shown that 8 weeks of meditation leads to structural changes in the brain, confirming that we can change our brain anatomy just by controlling our thoughts. We have the capacity to share our future and our world view, if only we commit to it completely and practice regularly over time… 

… If we continue a practice regularly, we will build new neural networks for this new way of being. This is the concept of neuroplasticity”.

This is where things get interesting because meditation and micro-dosing go hand in hand, despite the possible scorn and skepticism that this statement may instigate. 

In reality — in mine anyways — micro-dosing is somewhat of a hack, allowing a user to bypass the effort and time that meditation so often requires (fitting that the trend, aimed at optimizing efficiency, flows out of Silicon Valley). For this statement to resonate with any sort of sense, one has to run around in a few circles to first define the purposes of meditation as well as that of micro-dosing, something I’m not going to spend much time doing as, to me, they can be squeezed into the same variable category of self-improvement.

In other words, micro-dosing is a better way of meditating, one that can be exponentially more effective as well as efficient; it’s meditating while not actually meditating, depending on where we draw the lines. 

I know that some are quick to denounce my heretical perspective on meditation, but it’s ultimately a subjective enterprise that sees all diverse means arriving at the same ends. 

Subsequently, it can be said that micro-dosing, not unlike meditation, is done to change the way we think. Only it’s done more effectively because this external stimulant is forcing our brain to operate in a certain way, whereas meditation really depends on the subjective and internally-cultivated dedication of a participant (and let’s face it, unless we’re moving into a monastery, it’s not easy to maintain that kind of focus on a constant basis). 

So not only does micro-dosing offer a more effective, more efficient, and more consistent method of self-referential improvement, it also provides training wheels — or, maybe to be more accurate, bowling bumpers that do not allow for a gutter ball effort in terms of our practice.

Now, with the procedural bits out of the way, we can look at the wonderful perplexity of the mechanisms at play.

Hand in Hand

So what do we care that micro-dosing can contribute to improved self-referential awareness because of the neuroplasticity involved in the equation?

Well, to go back to my failed training wheels analogy, it’s the fact that we can train our mind to think a certain way (any way we want it to, if we play our cards right) under a scope of permanence, not fleeting transience. 

This suddenly throws a whole new dimension upon the practice of micro-dosing (or, for those I’ve failed to convince that are still hanging on, we can even say the practice of meditation itself or any self-awareness art). 

We’re no longer talking about a micro hit of LSD before an exam to think faster; we’re not talking about reworking that project or introspecting our way out of that particular existential crisis. We’re talking about permanent (as permanent can be in such a context) habit formation, aided with an external catalyst that promises sure results.

This is about the way we see the world, about building long-lasting (or forever-lasting) neuronal networks of perspective. I’ll share an example momentarily but, for the time being, I ask that this point be reflected on more than any within this article. 

In Dr. Mulukutla’s words:

“From a self improvement perspective, meditation helps us become aware of our unconscious thought patterns and their link to unwanted behaviors. We can learn to recognize these patterns and effect a different response. Hence we are breaking out of our prior patterns as dictated by the DMN.”

Remember, it’s our default mode network that dictates how we think about certain things. How we react to certain situations; how motivated we are when we exercise; how we think about certain social issues. The underlying, sub-surface consciousness that only bubbles up in special circumstances. 

We’re talking about altering the fundamentals, the essentials, the very codes behind our thought processes. This, amazingly, is something that micro-dosing already does.

But we know, from clinical trials which are gaining in legislative credibility as they are in academic integrity, one good helping of psilocybin can be a life-long gamechanger. 

Fittingly, studies are currently finding that psychedelic-based therapies are so effective simply because they play on the neuroplasticity of the brain. 

Still not buying it? I implore any reader to Google the words “psychedelics and neuroplasticity” and sift through the mountains of clinical research done to assess the viability of hallucinogenic substances in treating life-long psychological disabilities. 

One such article, aptly titled “Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity” finds:

“Our results underscore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and, importantly, identify several lead scaffolds for medicinal chemistry efforts focused on developing plasticity-promoting compounds as safe, effective, and fast-acting treatments for depression and related disorders.”

It’s a long-winded way to basically arrive at the already known but underappreciated (or frowned upon) conclusion that psilocybin can really change the way we think — for the better. 

While it does so on a monumental basis (the big doses) it can also do so on a miniscule basis (the micro doses). Neuroplasticity is concerned with just this process — the restructuring of the tangible and intangible structure of our mind — and so what better couple can we envision when discussing a shift in perceptions under the scope of self-improvement?

Hard to imagine any other. 


So, if we were to squeeze out an ergo from all this, several weeks worth of micro-dosing should redesign our mind, to one degree or another. 

And, given my experience, I’m convinced of it. 

The issue is that it’s rare to come across accounts of such consistency — say, to the eight-week degree that Dr. Mulukutla specifies. Added to this is the fact that micro-dosing is usually such a subtle activity that it doesn’t cause the kinds of perceptual changes that would leave someone running to tell the world about, though the accounts do exist.

It’s a subtle change to perspective, one that isn’t often flaunted and substantial enough to warrant publishing deals and media attention. 

I can say with even more certainty that if someone were crazy enough (and even the most enthusiastic psychonauts seem unwilling to try it) to consume a heroic dose of psilocybin (the mind-bending kind that will really dilate pupils) every day for eight straight weeks, their mind would be changed forever, if not broken. 

This is why I’m going to be the first reported individual to take a heroic dose every day for eight weeks. Just kidding. 

But I have gone 31 days micro-dosing, recording my findings along the way, to arrive at some pretty certain conclusions. 

Albeit, it had been in a bit of a different context (athletic performance as opposed to strictly that of self-awareness), I can say with total confidence and conviction that I had left that 31-day experience with a completely new understanding with respect to how an athlete can tap into higher potentials of capability and focus. 

And I hadn’t been the only one.

To this day, I still receive emails describing the accounts of others who stumbled onto the same realizations that I did, realizations of a permanent kind that seem coherent across all spans of experience. 

An MMA fighter in Poland; a snowboarder in Western Canada; a basketball player in South America; a cyclist in India; all have micro-dosed psilocybin and all have reported the same list of realizations brought about from doing so. 

It wasn’t that micro-dosing helped to foster better performance during a physical activity (though it indirectly did), it’s that micro-dosing changed the way we had perceived our engagement with a physical activity, in numerous ways.

It re-designed how we perceived our ability and how deeply we immersed ourselves into a particular sport. It redefined our self-perspective in terms of our capability and our efficacy. 

While I concede that it’s a rather wishful pill to swallow, I implore any skeptic to first try it and see for themselves. 

Regardless, the re-definition is real, whether we want to filter it through a placebo effect or through a subconscious alteration of thinking patterns. More critically, the redefinition is especially indicative of neuroplasticity, something that can’t be denied after a certain point.

The only question that still hovers about is where we want to draw the line.

If we want to remain skeptical and defiant in favor of institutionalized beliefs, then none of this really matters; neuroplasticity remains an obscure phenomenon that will have to be evidenced redundantly into itself to the point that it won’t really matter by the time of its accepted.

But if we want to accept the underlying truth that we know very little about how our minds work, and that we should really appreciate the ways by which our interface of reality is more telling when viewed through a lens of subjectivity as opposed to one of objectivity, well then there’s something fizzing to the surface here that we shouldn’t ignore.