Brain fun

BoingBoing linked to this article in the Boston Globe telling us how we can send our brains on haywire flights of fancy using nothing but the simplest household materials. I love reading about the way our brains react when we send them into unfamiliar environments, it really rams home the fact that they are essentially massively complex organic computers and if you give them screwy input then you can’t expect any kind of sensible output.

When I was in high school many moons ago I was a fan of the odd LSD trip and loved reading about various other drug experiences, lapping up Burroughs, Kesey, et al. I was sensible enough to stay away from hard drugs so looked to other methods of experiencing the strange and unusual through alteration of brain behaviours and ended up doing a sleep deprivation experiment for a week or so. I was in sixth year and already had the qualifications I needed for university so I thought what the hell and gave it a shot.

Basically I would behave as normal during the day but at night I’d sit in my room listening to music and playing the SNES (Mario Kart ftw) while imbibing gallons of strong coffee. I didn’t notice much for the first couple of days but I think it was the third day when I realised that my train of thought had developed a tendency to rampage out of control in a fashion I had only experienced previously during acid trips. It was interesting but not mind-blowing so I kept on with the experiment. It soon got to the point where I was getting too tired to stay awake in my room so I’d shimmy out of the window, down the trellis and off into the streets for some random wandering.

I remember clearly, towards the end of the week, passing under a tree and staring up through its bare branches at the full moon behind it. There wasn’t a single gust of wind that day but before I knew it the branches were beinding and twisting in front of my eyes as if caught in a hurricane. I stood for at least ten minutes just gaping at the scene, the patterns formed by the branches becoming ever more intricate, until I finally managed to snap myself back into this reality and continued my walk, now managing to find ‘breathing’ patterns everywhere I looked.

By the final couple of nights I would occasionally shut my eyes for a second just to rest and discovered my favourite part of the experiment. The second my eyelids closed my vision would burst into the most amazing, colourful patterns which would eventually develop into dreamlike scenes of great complexity. I was entirely conscious throughout all this but my brain was happily dreaming away! I have since tried many methods to help attain lucid dreaming states and it has happened now and again but never with the vivid nature of sleep deprivation.

So there you go kids, probably explains why I ended up the way I am today! Go forth and have fun with your heads…

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