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Welcome, everyone, to the mushroom revival podcast. As you all know, we'd love to geek out about mushrooms and fungi. And one big topic that we love to dive down is psychedelics and magic mushrooms and some of our most listened to episodes are about these psychoactive fungi, and how we can partner with them to help facilitate healing and really mystical experiences. And sometimes we go down really weird avenues. With this, it is a weird space. And this episode might be one of those topics of interweaving VR with psychedelic experiences mushrooms included. When I first saw this topic, I, you know, I'm not gonna lie, I was a little skeptical and has certain opinions around VR, just with my own past experiences. But as I'm reading deeper into this research, I'm actually really intrigued. I'm really happy to bring on two experts in the field to talk about the research. So welcome. Welcome on the show. Thank you. Thanks for having us. So you're tuning in from Australia, Agnieszka? And Prakash, and you're with a Gnosis therapeutics. So why don't you tell the listeners about yourself and what got you into VR in psychedelics? Sure. So I'm crush, I'm a medical doctor by training, who specialized in psychiatry, due to my interest in psychedelics. So psychedelics that drew me into psychiatry, rather than the other way round is seems to happen a lot of psychiatrists who are doing psychedelic research, and I've been an advocate for psychedelic therapy for the last seven to eight years here in Australia, which, until a few years ago has been a bit of a mountain to climb, as you can imagine, before the needle start to shift, I guess, in mainstream consciousness. VR was never really on my radar, until I met Agnieszka while you're working on a different paper together. And it was her who sort of brought it to my attention. She didn't just bring it to my attention, just sort of drilled it into me over many months. It took about six months for the penny to drop, really, for me. And once it had been, yeah, I couldn't unsee what I had just seen, but yes, I'll hand you over to Agnieszka. Yeah, so my name is Agnieszka. And my background is in medtech research. So I've been working for years on introducing different forms of innovation in tech into different fields of medicine, and that innovation included virtual reality. So I worked with VR on, let's say, crime scene investigation in forensics, or on Mars simulation in space medicine. And so at some stage, I got more and more interested in those aspects of VR that are more unique in the way it relates to our consciousness and how the immersive environment makes people feel rather than just it's replicating the existing environment or being used for educational practice. So I got really interested in those immersive aspects of VR, that make it what we now know as a state altering modality. And I pursued another degree in clinical psychology. And it was that during that time that I discovered psychedelics. So for me, that was not a personal experience, which is, I believe, is for most people, it was very much academic and data driven. Once I, I've read a few papers on how psychedelics work, and what are the outcomes that have been observed recently, it just made sense to pursue that there was no other alternative treatment that made as much sense as a psychedelic said. So quite quickly, I kind of looked at state altering properties of different practices that are so powerful at inducing change, and scrout. This the work that Prakash and I did on altered state of consciousness, which is the paper that he mentioned, I went back to to look at VR as that state altering modality. And as a conclusion of our paper, we kind of realized that it is actually combining more than one modality together that might lead to an augmented effect and might have best patient outcomes. So we started looking at how VR and psychedelics could be used in that synergistic way to maximize each other's properties in mental health treatment. And this is how a Gnosis sort of emerged from that research. So we were researchers first and we are researching that in prison in our spare time. Then I started my PhD at Swinburne University. And the company kind of emerged as a spin off of that research. And this paper that you publish together was
The world's first academic paper examining the synergistic applications of VR in psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. Is that right? Yes, definitely
to that detail, there has been two or three papers suggesting the possibility of combining VR of psychedelics before that. But just very briefly introducing the subject, we went into a lot of detail into exploring first specific properties of the art that might be important to psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. And then to the scenarios that in which the two modalities could be combined. So we explore protocols and in detail, what what time of therapy VR could be used, and in what way, and then we dive quite deeply into the limitations of this approach, to give the reader a full overview of what it means really to bring VR into psychedelic psychotherapy.
I'm not gonna lie, before I read the paper, I was extremely skeptical. It seems like a black mirror episode, I'm not gonna lie. And some absolutely fine, it feels very dystopian. And just in my experiences of using VR, I get a headache and I feel really nauseous. I know people that have amazing experiences with VR, and they love it. I'm a little jealous, like, I kind of wish I didn't feel a little I must feel carsick, you know, I think my brain is seeing my body in one space, but then it's also feeling itself in another space, and it gets, you know, it's that disassociative effect that makes me feel nauseous. So for me, also, every time I take mushrooms, the thought of like, looking at my phone, also is like really repulsive to me or like any screen. And so for me personally, before reading the paper, I was like, No way. But after reading the paper, I have to say, I was like how this could actually be a really effective therapy for some individuals with certain cases. And I think you did an amazing job, delivering some hard facts, and also showing the areas in which Hey, there's not enough research, and then also some potential cons or certain scenarios that we should be a little wary of. And I really appreciated that. It seemed like a nice middle ground stance of this and actually taking the time to investigate it, instead of pushing it to the side, which I'm sure you get a lot of similar stances as me in the beginning, right. Do you get a lot of people that you share this research with? Are they skeptical? Or what's the general response that you get?
Yeah, it took me about, yeah, the same six months for the penny to drop for me as well. And initially, I was equally skeptical. And for the same reasons, that screen seemed like the worst idea. But I think there are a few misconceptions that we should probably bust. And the first one is that, at no point in our protocol, no point in the way that we work with VR. Are we intending on using VR during the peak experience? And by peak experience? Yeah, yeah, we really mean, during the bulk of the trip experience, we are psychedelic researchers and clinicians here. And that psychedelic trip is still incredibly sacred for us. And preserving that its entirety and its purity is really important for us. The purpose of VR then is to sit alongside and augment the therapeutic process, everything from preparation to integration to the come up to the reemergence out of an altered conscious state, while still preserving that central experience of the trip to the mushroom or to whatever the psychedelic substance that has been used. And that that's a major misconception that we need to clear up right from the outset, because that isn't immediately obvious.
It's not and that was one of my questions that I had in one of my reservations, even after reading the paper of I wouldn't feel really comfortable during my peak, putting on a VR headset. But you know, there are certain instances, I think, the first part of the paper that really started changing my mind a little bit or started to shift my perspective was when you're listing examples of using VR, in addition to cortisol with acrophobia, and using cognitive enhancers in combination with VR with a treatment of Arrow phobia or fear of airplanes or flying, and also for Agra phobia, I think it's how you pronounce it and various things like that. And I was thinking about it and, you know, I just met someone who had a fear of flying and it was somewhat new to them. And they just, they had this extreme fear of flying and then another person, that I'm pretty close. to in my life has a fear of like, doctor's office, they had mal practice happened to them in surgery. And so they're now they have PTSD with like doctors and surgeons and medical establishments. And they had to go somewhere to go to a hospital for a checkup, and they had such bad anxiety. And I think like in those instances, instead of buying a plane ticket, every time that you want to try to get over your fear of flying, or having to just go into a medical establishment 100% and just have this huge panic attack, you can kind of like, dial it up a little bit. And instead of paying really expensive plane tickets, and then being stuck on an airplane, you can just have like a five minute quick VR thing, have you on an airplane, and just kind of take microdosing of that fear and just really get over it. And so in those instances, maybe take a micro dose of mushrooms, 510 minutes of a plane ride a day just to kind of get over those things. That was the part of the paper. I was like, wow, yeah, actually are fear heights, I have a fear of heights. And that might be helpful for my acrophobia. Instead of going bungee jumping or whatever, I can just VR it and in the safety of my own home, and before I'm ready to actually take that leap, literally. So So yeah, that for me was really important. And yeah, I think it it could be a tool for preparation and integration that I think isn't really being used. Now.
Yeah, you touched on a few really important things there. So as you notice, VR is an interesting tool in which you can dose the stimuli in whatever way you want, which is an important thing that we are exploring in our practice, especially when contrast with the current practice of using psychedelics. In psychotherapy. The way the set up exists now most widely used is with blindfolds and music. And of course, blindfolds work very well for turning the distractions away and looking inwards. But at the same time, blindfolds on the hour allow you a either all in or all out approach. So you either get no stimuli at all with blindfolds on, or you take them off, and then you're back in the either in the in the clinic or in the office, or in the living room setup. So is this all or nothing approach that is a little bit troubling for us. And VR gives you that opportunity to provide different types of stimuli and different dosage, and to slowly introduce stimuli, especially if you think about the time of coming back to the reality and suddenly taking off your blindfold and being confronted with to therapists and clinical space and everything that you just completely detached yourself from. And as a alternative to that, if we use VR, we can very slowly introduce stimuli that are very subtle, that are those in a way that, yeah, it's gradual, right, so you kind of move someone back into the normal reality by kind of very offering that buffer zone. And that transition, that bridge between altered consciousness and normal consciousness, to ease that come back into the reality, which is really important. And the second thing that you mentioned was someone having the fear of hospitals, most of us maybe wouldn't have the fear of hospitals. But I don't think anyone feels particularly comfortable in a hospital, or a clinic, or sometimes even a therapists office, because at the end of the day, this is not your space, this is someone else's space, you're a visitor, right. And it is this immediate expectation that comes as a part of you visiting, right, you're the patient or the client, there is certain level of hierarchy between you and the person that you are visiting the person who's guiding you need the therapist, the doctor. And this is where VR comes into play in terms of providing this space that does not belong to the doctor, it can belong to you to the patient, you are not a visitor anymore, this is something that you might be able to create for yourself or build from from within from inside out. And the therapist doesn't even necessarily have to be in that space with you. So suddenly, it breaks that dynamic of being a visitor in someone else's house or space or office and building the space around yourself for yourself that is completely yours.
I think that's a really potent point. And regardless of whether VR is the solution in that I think it's just important to call out and another thing in the very beginning of the paper that you talked about, which I thought was important to address in the current kind of medical psychedelic assisted therapy is that it's very normal to change therapists throughout the whole session from preparation to dosing to integration, and sometimes they're in different rooms and some of the sessions have music and some don't. And it can be very jarring to some people to have constant switch ups. If anyone has a lot of experience on psychedelics, those kinds of transitions or changes can be really jarring for people. And so I think that's whether VR is integrated to help kind of smooth those transitions or create a level of consistency, I think it's important to call out in general of, I think in all therapeutic spaces, it's important to one, be conscious of the space and make sure it's comfortable for all people, and hopefully, to be able to be dialed in dialed out for certain people's safety and comfort. And yeah, to have the transitions be really, really smooth for people that are are on edge and to limit the amount of triggers happening for people to have flashbacks or PTSD moments. So yeah, regardless of using VR or not, I think those are really important topics to shout out.
That's absolutely right. And I'm gonna need to clarify this, that we're not dogmatic about VR, we see VR as a very potent and robust tool. And we have interest in it for very specific reasons. But this is, as you notice, our main goal is to identify where therapy can be improved, and then try to improve that. So at this stage, we are using VR because it might be the easiest tool that we have available at the moment, especially if you think about how research is done right now and how it's very difficult to do research in, let's say, natural setting, which is something that traditionally has been used. It's hard for clinical robust clinical research to be conducted in nature in the way, let's say retreats are being done. And so when we don't really have alternatives, VR does give us that option of exploration. And I think that's the most important thing about that, because it has so many options that you can try in a very easy, comfortable way. Why wouldn't we use that tool to question the status quo a little bit, we are a little bit stuck with the models that have been established during the so called first wave of psychedelic research. And no one has really tested against those models, we are doing very little to explore how different setups or different contexts might impact the patient. And this is something that we are trying to challenge a little bit to use VR as this exploration tool to question what are the best practices. And in the same way that you are saying that people might be very skeptical about the use of technology, because you know, it's like Alex, it's sacred, we shouldn't be messing messing around with that by introducing a screen. In the same way, if you look at someone lying on a bed with blind shades on and two therapists kind of, you know, staring at that person as they're tripping. This is something that probably in traditional setup would be also very questionable or a no go, why would you go into a building sort of thing in nature and have people be quiet? You know, it feels almost intrusive to have someone with you there the whole time? Why would you put blindfolds on and not enjoy nature, there's a lot of things that could be questioned about current practice, because it might work for some people, it might not work for others. And from the traditional perspective, that would be a very strange thing to do. So it's no wonder that if we're introducing a different approach altogether, that from that clinical perspective, now, we're a little bit on that edge of what is considered a standard practice.
Right, right. Yeah, I would love to walk through, I think he broke down the paper really brilliantly with just going through different sections of different benefits and the different papers that kind of back it up. And the first one would be relaxation. And in this section, you talked about using nature based audio visual stimuli to bring people in this all induced state of being connected and being in this ah, yeah, feeling ah, and I'm just curious, I've been having to switch. I'm human being and I scroll through Instagram, and I've had to just in COVID times, I've done it more so than I would like. And I've had to just switch out a lot of my followers to follow more accounts that are more ASMR or nature landscapes, people making pottery, just things that are more visually pleasing, instead of to crap on the internet that you can find scrolling through Instagram. And I think this is a similar stance of this is just a tool and why not help your relaxation looking at, you know, a beautiful field and hearing the wind blowing and things like that. So what is being used? And has there been research on content that has shown to work better than others and some that don't really work very well.
So you introduce a few different concepts. They're from relaxation through buffering to all, and they all feed into each other. But there are different scenarios that are best as inducing each one of them. So all is a very interesting concept and all is something that is much more difficult to induce with other methods. And it is with virtual reality, particularly the more profound type of all, which is that slow simmer or that's what it's called, really, it's called a more destabilizing of because it requires a vast change in perception, or expansion in perception. And then because of that expansion in perception, your brain needs to adjust and accommodate that, that vastness. And that's the kind of order that is more long lasting and more change provoking, then what is called a quick boiled or, which is something that is a little bit easier obtained, but it doesn't induce as profound changes in understanding. And that's something that VR has been shown to be very good at inducing. So there's been some studies by Tirico, and Gawker, showing that VR can induce that state of especially when there are scenarios that are very unfamiliar and abstract or something that is completely otherworldly, in a way, so what they actually has been studying is predominantly scenarios of space exploration. So that's something that is stunning and beautiful, and has a lot of aesthetic qualities that are impressive, but at the same time, that's something that is not available to anyone during, you know, our everyday experiences. So it's something that is completely novel, and provoking in certain ways. So that's something that has been shown to lead to that slow simmer all that, in turn has been explored by Hendrix as a potential mechanism for why psychedelics work, why psychedelics induce change, and similar mechanism of having that change in perception, and needing to accommodate that vastness of perception, which might be then leading to increased openness and psychological flexibility. So that's how the two fit together. And that's quite an interesting concept in why VR might be so powerful at producing change, compared to traditional methods, and maybe also why it's much more comfortable in some ways, and widely accepted. There are reviews that show for example, review of apples color that we quote, there as well, that especially strongly traumatized patients, or patients who are unwilling to go through other forms of treatment are much more comfortable with going through VR treatments. So they've done studies on soldiers who refuse face to face therapy, because it's so triggering, and it's so uncomfortable. And they would be okay with doing VR therapy. So then the numbers are, I think I'll call the numbers there. It's something around 27% of soldiers refused talk therapy, but only 3% refused VR therapy. So that shows that there is certain level of comfort, however, that is obtained whatever that relaxation or the buffering, or even the exposure treatments are, however they present it as it does seem that it's much more comfortable to go through that in that immersive environment that buffers away everything else, including the therapist, and then it would be in a talk therapy. And when it comes to relaxation and buffering, this is a very personal thing, obviously, sky's the limit, VR allows for a lot of different modulations of the environment. So whatever works at the personal level, is what would work best for a relaxation scenario. So for some people might be the beach for some people might might be the forest, others might actually enjoy a cityscape. But that's the beauty of the art. And that allows for all of us exploration of all of those models.
Right, right. And just so I'm understanding the thought processes, this would be more so at the beginning of the prepping process. So getting someone relaxed enough to actually go into the space and then take off the VR, and go into more of the traditional dosing session with a more relaxed state. And also you're talking about I thought that was really cool, like priming someone I know you talked about in the paper altered states of consciousness priming, which is displaying situations where people are like floating in space and showing them almost alien like things and then having them be comfortable with that or calm in that state of newness, which in the psychedelic space. You might see aliens, you might you might actually visualize yourself floating through space and some people get really freaked out by that because it's so new. It's uh, you know, and so this could be priming people to be comfortable in going to those altered states and being calm and not freaking out or not feeling anxious. or uncomfortable, you talked about buffering a lot. And I just want to make sure that we define it, basically distracting someone from pain, right?
So buffering is an important aspect that you just described in terms of keeping the distractions away, especially when you go into the experience. So if you think about what has happening immediately prior to that onset of the peak phase, so following the dosing, is that there are some changes in consciousness that happened that are very novel for some people, especially if someone a psychedelic naive, that are very unfamiliar in a lot of ways. And going into that might be very triggering. For some people, especially again, if you haven't experienced anything that is even related to an altered state of consciousness, people who practice mindfulness frequently or who've tried other state altering practices might go into that much easier. And this is the kind of principle that we're building on in terms of using VR for practicing altered states of consciousness during the preparation phase. So you can induce that altered states with VR and get familiar, not just at the visual level, like you mentioned, something that is very novel and unfamiliar, like the the audience are seeing yourself out of like having like an out of body experience. That's a very visual aspect of that. But you can also help people achieve, let's say, mindful state, or state of flow, or different form of altered state of consciousness with the use of VR. And that seems to be much easier than practicing without VR. So VR kind of condenses that need for practicing and achieving an altered state of consciousness from a number of sessions into just a few sessions, so that they can be sort of squeezed into the preparation phase of the psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. And in that way, people get more familiar with achieving an altered state and what it feels like so both in being able to switch off enough, and that's where buffering comes into play, and let go into an altered state of consciousness, and also how that feels to them once they reach that altered state of consciousness and be able to obtain a sense of ease around that so that they can let go and they can stay open, and they will be finding it easier to surrender to the experience once they're in it. So these are the concepts related to buffering and that letting go that are immediately applicable to psychedelic sessions.
Yeah, the next section, you talked about mindfulness. And there was a study done in in 2020, that showed that VR guided meditation showed better improvements for relaxation and mindfulness, then audio guided meditations. And I thought that was crazy. But I've never done a VR guided meditation. So I don't know what it consists of. I love audio guided meditations for integration, especially if I had a really intense psychedelic experience, using the next couple of weeks or depending on remember, times I did Ayahuasca in the past. And it was like a 10 day experience five Ayahuasca sessions in a short, compact space, it was very intense, and it changed my life in a very deep way, and reintegrating back into my day to day was really hard. And having these audio guided meditations were so helpful for me to just kind of come back to my body to relax to feel like I was back in that space again, and could just have more of an easeful transition. And what was great is a lot of the people that helped facilitate this Ayahuasca retreat were also made these videos. And so it was people that I was familiar with. And just like we were talking about before, of like taking off the blindfold immediately, it's an abrupt transition, where this helped me smoothly come back. And so I can see this being really helpful for people as well to integrate. And you talked a lot about this in the paper, as well as just like this consistency. So using the same music as the prep, the dosing and the integration, the same kind of visuals that can help people stay in that space and dial it up or down and really continue the work without it being one five hour session, and then you're just like, catapulted back into your nine to five job. And all the lessons are lost. So I think, I think for integration to just having that level of consistency of if you watch the same ASMR nature based or space based VR videos or whatever it is, like continue that integration and I can see how this would be helpful for people. Yeah, it is really interesting. I also do want to point out that it is a concern of mine that it will replace quote unquote, real world habits. So what I don't want people to do is, instead of actually taking a walk in nature, watching a VR, walk in nature, I hope. And what happened to me is like, instead of watching a 40 minute Netflix show, I could instead, listen to a 40 minute guided meditation and relax and integrate my psychedelic experience, or instead of scrolling through Instagram, for 40 minutes, or 20 minutes or whatever, instead, replace that with this healthier integrative VR experience that can be conducive for healing. And I'm, I'm sure that's also where you're coming from, as well. But I just wanted to point it out for people that might also have that fear of like people replacing, quote unquote, real world or healthier alternatives with the Dr. Alternatives, if that makes sense.
Yeah, I can comment on that quite distinctly, like we equally are firm believers in the idea that the art should not be replacing real world structures, particularly things like nature. But I think it's worth mentioning that we come from the place of being clinician and researcher. And I guess, in a sense, having an element of realism, about the way psychedelic therapy is being rolled out, and how it is being introduced. If I was being completely idealistic, I would love for psychedelic therapy to be introduced in the middle of a forest, surrounded by nature, with participants staying there for the days or weeks that's required for the whole therapy process to unfold, we understand that that's not practical, it's not logistically feasible. And we have to accept that the introduction of psychedelics into mental health treatment is going to happen via the Trojan horse of the clinical therapy method. And that means clinical therapy rooms, that means research institutions, that means urban environments, whether we like it or not, yeah, that's the way we are going to be able to introduce it. And if that is the inherent logistical limitation that we are forced to work with, and if that is the way we get further acceptance into the mainstream consciousness, then rather than fight it, our aim is to instead use technology almost sort of counter intuitively, to approximate as closely as we can, to that more ideal scenario, in an ideal environment, right, which is the clinical therapy room, which I think most of us would acknowledge, is probably the most ideal environment in which to take psychedelics.
Some people love it, though, some people are really into it. And they actually feel really safe and like a clinical setting, and a lot of people don't. So catering towards the people that don't, they're making it just a little bit better. And I do like, what you're saying, there's a big portion of society that are scared of certain topics, and they just like tune it out. And it's like VR, whether we like it or not, it's going to be so mainstream, pretty soon. And the next generations, VR and augmented reality are just going to be so commonplace. Now, it seems so foreign and so kind of like futuristic or Black Mirror episode, but pretty soon, it's going to be very commonplace. And so can we use that for healing? And hopefully, it doesn't replace that. I mean, that that's the goal, right? It doesn't replace sitting in nature, in your physical body. But, but hopefully, you can replace some of the negative things that people will probably use it for looking at Kim Kardashian articles, or whatever they want to use it for. But yeah, yeah, I do want to also ask, there's a point in the paper talking about augmenting peak states, and that highly immersive VR experiences can help someone get into like an ego shattering or disassociative state where their ego is totally shattered. And I'm just curious, in your opinion, like, when would that state be best for therapy? And when do you think it would be potentially harmful in conjunction with psychedelics?
So what we're speaking about in terms of augmenting peak states is actually it might be a bit counterintuitive, because we're speaking about augmenting the peak phase but it's actually through an expansion of the peak phase to some degree. So we don't believe that we are can ever actually deepen the peak phase itself or deepen that ego shattering experience. This is something that does happen during that mystical experience or during that ego dissolution experience. And it is very much driven by personal capacity and by the medicine so VR will not be used to augment that. But what it can be used for is to expand that state and be able to kind of if you feel Think about the altered states diagram of coming up reaching the peak phase and then coming down of being able to sort of ride that wave for a little bit longer. So this alteration of consciousness does continue to some degree through that period that we know as afterglow. But by introducing VR, what we're hoping to get is to introduce another way of altering consciousness so that we can keep connecting back to that psychedelic experience for as long as we can, so that the psychedelic experience does not just become limited to that single dosing session, but it's actually augmented or expanded across a few sessions before and after, so that we can make use of those insights. And those memories. And those profound emotional moments don't happen during the peak phase, in hours and days and weeks, following the peak bass. And we use VR to expand that, that embodied emotional space. And we use that specifically for the models that we are building as a Gnosis and we call this mechanism anchoring. And this is something that has been a big focus for us to be able to introduce VR, in a very sustainable and very comfortable way, towards the end of the psychedelic experience when the person is returning to normal consciousness, but are still very much immersed in that altered state and the insights that they just had are very vivid in their mind. And using VR stimulus as an anchor of those experiences. So that we can then reintroduce that later on, let's say during the debriefing session the next morning, and to have that trigger of that emotional state. And so that is the massive of fragmentation of the psychedelic experience.
Yeah, I really like that I do something similar with the main Maestro that I've been working with for many, many years in Peru, he has these medicine songs or Icarus that he sings, and a couple of them were were recorded, and I listened to them. And because they're the same songs that I've listened to, in those peak states, listening to them later, helps me remember the lessons that I learned or what I processed and things like that. And I'm able to, like you said, elongate that experience and remember it more vividly, rather than like searching through old notebooks or trying to think of it. I think, partnering smell and music, which they're finding with Alzheimer's dementia patients is like, music is really important to bring back memories, and giving Alzheimer's dementia patients like biped shuffles with old songs that they listened to when they're young, helped bring back memories. So I think this can be really, really important for people. You also talked about therapeutic alliance, and specifically with people in the military that had certain PTSD, they felt more comfortable working with this VR therapy than they would sitting in front of an actual person. And really just like, opening up and feeling vulnerable in front of another human being, which is like hard. I am curious. I've two questions on this. Do you think that is also highly dependent on age and demographics? Do you feel like younger generational people that have grown up with more access to technology will feel more comfortable using VR? And also, do you feel like that might, over time, instill negative almost like antisocial tendencies, as opposed to helping long term? Does that make sense?
Yeah, that doesn't make sense. The two part question, the first, VR has repeatedly been shown to be a really comfortable and easily accepted form of therapy. And yes, while the younger generation, I mean, we can we can think of as being more amenable to technology and more conveniently easy adopters of technology. The reality is that once you've had a few experiences with a VR headset on, it becomes really comfortable really quickly. And it doesn't necessarily depend on having hours of game time playing VR games to get really comfortable with utilizing a headset and operating within that virtual world. So I don't think in the long term that we're going to see much of a discrepancy between the younger population versus the older population. Secondly, in the way that we are using it, it's certainly not in a gaming type scenario where you need to be responding rapidly with quick reflexes and you've got some of these dancing around you that you need to respond to. No, most definitely not. And in that way, it's a very different By means of thinking about utilizing VR. And so I don't think that age difference is going to be very apparent. To answer the second part of the question about whether we're creating an a social means of of interaction. I see and understand the concern there. The goal certainly is not to reduce the human to human interaction. But particularly when we're not talking about, in this case, the general population, we're talking about utilizing this with particularly vulnerable individuals who are discussing particularly vulnerable subject matter. And in that we again, accept the constraints that discussing such vulnerable subject matter with an external person, particularly if it's not someone who you've built up a therapeutic relationship with over years and years. And if you have your psychoanalyst, so you've known for for years, then that's quite a different situation, to having met someone for the first time, a few weeks before, having gone through a couple of preparation sessions, then gone through this intensely emotional and vulnerable, psychedelic journey, and then having to pour out these very deep emotional states right person. And anything, I think at that point that helps facilitate that state of being able to be vulnerable, being able to be open. And being able to discuss these subjects more keenly, with greater depth, I think is an absolute positive. And sort of, that's my way of thinking about how you'd love VR in that scenario,
no, I really appreciate it. So I think kind of a general motif that we keep going back to is that this is a tool, right? And this isn't supposed to replace human interaction or walking in nature, this is just a tool for a certain set of a population that can help baby step them into something better, right. So if someone doesn't have access to a nature setting, or whatever the situation is, this can be a small stepping stone to get them to be able to go somewhere deeper, or somewhere else, or you know what I mean, just to help them a stepping stone in their healing journey, as opposed to a replacement for all human interaction ever. Or whatever it may be. So yeah, I really appreciate you saying that.
Yeah, so that's absolutely true that tech is always on me at all. And it always becomes whatever we want it to become. It is something that can help us in measurable ways. And it does depend on how we utilize that I don't think there is a need to be scared of introducing tech to any field, medicine and science have embraced tech, much more so than mental health. And this might be a need for mental health field for psychiatry, to open themselves up a little bit more to technology, including VR, given that it does allow so much that other aspects of life cannot but as you say, so it's not a replacement is an addition to anything else that we can use. And if you think about, for example, what nature is providing or even what music is providing, it is this type of stimuli that is projected on the user right in some way. So whether you look at a beautiful landscape, or you listen to a beautiful tune, it is the stimuli that you receive. That is very powerful. What VR gives us an opportunity to use is not just a stimuli that is being received, but also the stimuli that is being projected. At the same time. You mentioned, like journaling at some stage that you use that to express yourself after your retreat experience. Yeah, so that helped you to kind of carry on that method. So imagine if you could combine in the same step that music stimuli that was bringing you back and journaling stimuli that you are projecting that is also bringing you back in a single world. And this would be our does, it allows you to both receive and produce at the same time within that very immersive environment. And this is how we use our anchors. So it's not just about the visual stimuli, for example, that you receive through VR. But you can also use for example, your own voice, to record that emotional state of mind that you're in at the time, and then be able to return to that using this expression versus impression Interplay to have a more substantial multi sensory anchoring mechanism to bring you back to that experience.
I'm also curious if y'all have thought about using augmented reality, and this could be augmented reality, it could be VR or there might actually be more that I don't know of, but in the context of bringing back a past dead relative or someone who you had a disagreement in the past, but you're not ready to talk to them in real life, but you want to talk to them and process and just like actually bring up a digital representation of them and just like have that conversation process. While looking at their face to eventually hopefully have that conversation in person in a much more calm resolved state, or what happened to me is that I had something that I felt bad about doing. And so long story, I'll save all the details. And I've said this story in past episodes before where I had an apology that I wanted to tell my grandpa, but he passed away before I could tell him, it was something like really silly, but in an Ayahuasca journey, I was able to kind of like, bring up his spirit and almost visualize him in front of me and have that conversation. So I'm sure this could also be done in this space. Or I mean, even like bringing up a visual representation of a spirit guide, or a mentor or images of things, or people or animals that bring someone comfort or feeling but also like processing, right, but they're not ready to process it with a human being a digital representation of them, has this been explored in any way?
That's very interesting. And I really like both your creativity and your courage in going into this more explorative. area. And yes, you're not the first person who had that experience with someone who they can't connect with in their daily life, but having experiencing them during their psychedelic journey, and being able to either reconnect or bring balance to that relationship. And it's a very profound type of connection. And there are a few things to that first is that, that is a very human type of connection. And I'm not sure whether tech will ever be able to replicate that in a way that makes sense or that feels profound. This is something that we might need to leave for exploration for a few decades to come at this stage. I don't think the technology is there yet. And as a as a as a representation, for example, of a spirit. These are all the things that he is absolutely capable of. And there's definitely potential for exploration and going into that terrain of having a representation of spirits that is of importance to you, and somehow representing something that you can't otherwise access in a daily life. However, at this stage, this is still a beginning of research into VR in psychedelics, and what we like to say in our practice is that less is more, and we are introducing the different types of stimuli very, very slowly and studying each type of stimuli and its impact on on the user. Before we can use this in practice, or before we can say with any certainty that this is something that can work or be beneficial. And this is also something that we do worry about when it comes to, you know, commercial interest in this space. And there's a lot of wild ideas out there a lot of beautiful ideas. But at the end of the day, they're just ideas, and some of them are, they're trying to replicate a psychedelic experience, or they're trying to somehow create spaces of journeys or experiences that are impacting the psychedelic experience. And it might be that there's use for all of that, especially if you look at it on a personal level that some people might benefit from that. But until there's research into this, I really don't think it's safe to allow something like that or to put some ideas on the market for people. And that's why we are very slowly building our models. And we are kind of researching every aspect of it and trialing every aspect of it. Before we can say we've confirmed that, oh, this is something that can actually work. So there's very few things that we are now in a place where we can say that they definitely work because but the things that we are certain about we are certain about.
I also appreciate that as well. I mean, yeah, there's so many companies entering the psychedelic space who may be one have never taken psychedelics, or just they see dollar signs in their eyes and are Yeah, they're claiming things that have no backing, claiming that certain psychedelics can cure XYZ, when there's no, no research into it, and just a little too zealous. And that kind of attitude, I feel like is a recipe to really hurt people, right. And to have people, this is a really vulnerable state. And some people have a lot of trauma and a lot of PTSD. And if the facilitators just, maybe they don't, and they just they're not aware of what a ton of trauma feels like, or what that triggering state feels like. And so they'll turn it up to 11 and really just damage someone's psyche irreversibly. And I am worried about that. And so, yeah, we're seeing the psychedelic space go really rapidly. I do respect your care for taking it one step at a time and making sure that it's science backed and that everything. Yeah, before you release it, anything to the public, you make sure that it works and it's safe. And I think that anything that should be the rule that we all should abide by for sure. What do you see as the future framework, what do you hope to see in this space in general, I know that's a big question. But take it as you will,
if we're talking about the psychedelic space in general, I've put forward to you that a good way of thinking about where the direction in which the psychedelic space is traveling, is to look at the innovation that's happening in this space now, and particularly looking at where the money is being poured into, because that tends to direct the course of growth. And the vast, disproportionate majority of money that has been poured into the space right now is in drug discovery, and drug development, which shouldn't surprise because if there are capitalist motives, that's where you're going to have the greatest scale and creating a pharmaceutical company is probably what's going to be the most profitable. But it also speaks to that narcissistic human condition of believing that we will be able to improve on something that Mother Nature has evolved over millennia, but we can do better, we can create a shorter acting mushroom or a longer acting DMT or non hallucinogenic hallucinogens. And unfortunately, that seems to be the direction that most innovation is happening. And it seems to ignore the distinctly human elements in that process, that is, the therapists and particularly in our case, context, the experience design the environment, and these are the human elements which we have created, which we have brought into this space, and which are the elements that we should be looking at the most in terms of how we can optimize. And perhaps just for another while we can let nature be, it's done its thing, you know, like, it's, it's done the hard work over millennia to get here. Now that we're starting to meddle with that and work with it, maybe we should be focusing more time, attention and money into how we optimize that process. And that's very much the angle that we take and where we come from in terms of working on the experience design in terms of working on the context as the container in which the whole psychedelic therapy process sits in, rather than just purely focusing on the medicine as being only one portion of the whole therapy process. And so, yeah, to answer your question, that's one of our ardent wishes for how we see the psychedelic space progressing.
And what about you? Yeah, I
think we're very much on the same page with brush when it comes to that. So we obviously we have a very similar vision. And that's why we've decided to carve out this company, which is very much focused on context development, and our passion for that experience, component experience design and something that both that builds on experiential moments in therapy and empowers the patient, and creates a sense of permanence, which is something we haven't really spoken about of that capacity for tech and for experienced design to create a cohesive thread throughout the whole therapeutic process, and then lead on to self practice that can last for as long as possible, because we all know that healing doesn't end with six integration sessions. And we're done. Healing will continue for a very, very long time and giving someone tools to continue that healing in a way that is sustainable. And productive is very important to us. So in that sense, experience design and contextual design that can augment experiential moments in therapy, sustain permanence and empower patients to take control their own healing, are those key principles that we focus on? And we believe that they should be focused on with context design, but also in psychedelic therapy at large?
Yeah, I kind of wished that I didn't feel so nauseous with VR. And also, maybe that's a good thing, I don't know. The technology will improve. And I would love to try it in this setting. I feel like it can be really impactful for certain things in certain scenarios for certain people. I think it can be a really powerful tool. And for other people, maybe not for them. And that's okay. It's all about finding what works for you. And what, yeah, what is good for your healing journey. And every single body is different. And everybody needs different things. And it's all beautiful. It's all okay. It's all great. Anything that we didn't talk about that you're itching to talk about that you think is really important.
I think we've covered a lot here, Alex,
we have yeah, having to spend a great
deal has been an excellent conversation. Thank you so much for your questions instead of really probed us and allowed us to explore things that we don't often get to necessarily talk about in the podcast, but we're very grateful.
Likewise, yeah, this is not anything that I've ever thought about in my entire life. Yeah, this has been great. Really shifted my perspective and I'm yeah, I'm really grateful for you to also poke my curiosity and really helped me die. have deep into this topic and create a new discussion point for. I'm sure I will definitely bring this up with a couple beers with friends and get everyone's point of view and really talk about this. I think this is a really juicy conversation that needs more conversations to be had and more research, I think, yeah, I'm excited to see the development more research coming out. And yeah, where can people follow your work? And if they want to learn more, certain papers read website, XYZ, where can people go.
So we have a website, and also structure tix.com, we are not really spending too much time on social media or website design. Unfortunately, this is the result of us doing the doing the actual work, but it will improve and we'll definitely put more information out there, I think the best place to follow us really is LinkedIn, and connecting with both of us personally, we always post everything that is of importance to the company on both the company's LinkedIn profile, which is again and our sister politics, or our personal profile. So it's Dr. Prakash or Agnieszka cola. And yeah, feel free to find us to reach out and if you have any questions, we're always happy to connect on LinkedIn. And we do try to respond to everyone personally in messages if there's any, especially if there's anything that is thought provoking for us. That's, that's always exciting. And we welcome any point of view. Again, we are researchers, first, we are driven by the desire to explore and the need to answer questions. And we're not really afraid of being asked the difficult questions. And we understand that there's critics out there as well. So whatever it is, you could, you could throw that away, and we will be more than happy.
Awesome, thank you. And I will put your paper virtual reality as a moderator of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy that y'all just published in March of this year. I will put that in the show notes. And so if if people are looking to read it, it is a really good read. I highly recommend it. If you're skeptical, curious, all for it. Whatever stance you have, I highly recommend reading it and any other things that you want to share. We'll email after but I'll throw those in the show notes as well. But yeah, thank you to appreciate it. Thank you. Great. Thank you, Alex. Thank you. That wraps up another episode of the mushroom revival podcast, head over to mushroom revival.com. If you want to check out any of our functional mushroom goodies, we got gummies tinctures, capsules, powders, you name it, we got a bunch of blog posts if you want to learn more and check out all the rest of our range of podcasts that we have. We have guests from all over the world, tons of juicy topics and hope everyone has a beautiful rest of their day. As always much love and may the spores be with you.
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