Part 2: Ayahuasca Enhances Long-Term Logical Thinking Abilities and Attention through “Ego Dissolution”

Ayahuasca improves logic ability, digital art

In a study that demonstrated the strengthening of divergent (creative) thinking during the acute phase of Ayahuasca’s effects, the researchers wrote, “It would be interesting and important, in terms of the potential clinical application of Ayahuasca, to investigate whether the effects are stable or change over time. It would also be interesting to examine whether convergent (logical) thinking is restored 24 hours after Ayahuasca ingestion.”

Such a study was conducted two years later (Uthaug et al., 2018).

The assessment of creative and logical thinking was conducted three times this time: before ingestion, during the acute phase (the day after ingestion), and again after 4 weeks.

The results showed that convergent thinking returned to its original level as early as the day after Ayahuasca ingestion and continued to strengthen in the following month.

At the same time, while the activity of creative thinking did not increase further, it remained above the level before Ayahuasca ingestion.

What does all this mean?

Convergent thinking can be considered as the second phase of the creative thinking process. It aims to reduce variations to an acceptable outcome after ideas have been generated through divergent thinking.

In other words, Ayahuasca initially reduces the intensity of logical thinking in the first 24 hours and shows the individual “the door to infinity.” However, in order not to drown in the “ocean of ideas,” timely activation of narrower convergent thinking and selection of a solution must occur.

One can float endlessly in the clouds and be creative, but to achieve results, one must be able to select and implement. This process is facilitated by convergent thinking, which is intensified during the acute and long-term phase of Ayahuasca’s effects.

Interestingly, the scientists found that the stronger the so-called “ego dissolution” was during the acute phase, the stronger the later ability to concentrate and control attention.

“Ego dissolution” can be understood as the loss of the brain’s ability to impose rigid conditions on life, the perception of reality, and the limitation of a person’s possibilities based on past experiences.

Ayahuasca brings you to the shore of the creative ocean and then hands you the fishing rod—it teaches you to control your attention to “catch your prey.”

And now we come to a very interesting point. Ayahuasca maintains high activity of divergent thinking while simultaneously strengthening convergence.

The result is cognitive flexibility—the ability to visit the “ocean of ideas” as needed without getting lost in it, but being able to focus, catch something, process it, and bring it into reality.

In the next part, we will discuss the brain structure through which Ayahuasca teaches us to switch easily between creative and logical processes.

 

Original research:

Uthaug, M.V., van Oorsouw, K., Kuypers, K.P.C. et al. Sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca on affect and cognitive thinking style and their association with ego dissolution. Psychopharmacology 235, 2979–2989 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-018-4988-3

 

This article is a part of our series about effects of Ayahuasca on thinking and other brain functions:

 

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