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Have you ever had a spiritual awakening or a near-death experience? Or maybe just a moment of real awe in nature? Life can feel immediately different after experiencing what psychologists call a pivotal mental state. But what’s going on in your brain to allow a positive moment to leave such a lasting impression?

Neuroscientists are starting to figure out how psychedelic substances – like psilocybin or ayahuasca – produce their effects, which some people also find transformative. They’re connecting the dots between particular receptors in the human brain and these kinds of rapid changes. Psychiatry professor Edmund S. Higgins describes research underway to understand more about how psychedelics in combination with psychotherapy might help people achieve positive breakthroughs.

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Maggie Villiger

Senior Science + Technology Editor

New research hints at how psychedelics can trigger rapid, lasting change. wildpixel/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Psychedelics plus psychotherapy can trigger rapid changes in the brain − new research at the level of neurons is untangling how

Edmund S. Higgins, Medical University of South Carolina

Change in the brain usually comes with plenty of effort over time. Neuroscientists are working to understand how psychedelic drugs provide a shortcut that seems to rely on existing brain systems.

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