Making Sense of Selflessness


A number of psychoactive compounds are known to disrupt self-consciousness dramatically at high doses – a phenomenon known as “drug-induced ego dissolution” (DIED) in the scientific literature. Until recently, much of our knowledge of this phenomenon was due to anecdotal evidence from recreational drug users, or early studies from the 1950s and 1960s with small sample sizes. However, recent research on the relevant range of psychoactive compounds in neuroscience has shed new light on this topic. In this presentation, I will discuss the range of subjective effects that have been subsumed under the label “drug-induced ego dissolution”, and present some findings from recent empirical evidence, including novel evidence I have collected in previous research. I will suggest that this phenomenon refers in fact to a spectrum of effects spanning several dimensions, which should not be conflated. I will also reflect upon the similarities between drug-induced disruptions of self-consciousness on the one hand, and peak experiences induced by certain meditation practices, as well as so-called mystical-type experiences, on the other hand.

May 6, 2020
SublimAE Seminar
Institut Jean Nicod, Paris [rescheduled online due to COVID-19]

Raphaël Millière
Raphaël Millière
Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience