PAUL LIKNAITZKY, PhD

PAUL LIKNAITZKY, PhD

PAUL LIKNAITZKY, PhD

THE INTERDEPENDENCE HYPOTHESIS: THERAPEUTIC MECHANISMS OF PSYCHEDELIC STATES FOR DEPRESSION

Various disparate ‘induction’ methods (e.g., psychedelics, mindfulness, neural entrainment, endurance exercise) have been associated with both the production of a non-ordinary state of consciousness (NSC) and the reduction of depressive symptoms - in some cases a rapid, dramatic, and enduring reduction. However, therapeutic mechanisms remain unclear. In this talk I will offer a novel account, based on a large body of empirical research, of the underlying antidepressant mechanisms associated with various NSCs. I will show that a set of core neurobiological, psychological, and phenomenological features are in common across antidepressant NSCs, suggest that these features are antithetical to core features of depression, and argue that they represent good therapeutic candidates. I will reason that these diverse candidates – which include reduced reduced default mode network activity, reduced evaluative self-focus, enhanced present-context awareness, cognitive flexibility, curiosity and insight, increased relational intimacy and range, increased self-efficacy and prosocial behaviour, elevated Phenomenal Depth and meaning, and 'mystical' experience  – appear to all consist in a fundamental enhancement of the individual’s dependence on the ‘world’, and the ‘world’s’ dependence on the individual. In contrast, core features of depression appear to represent a fundamental deficiency in ‘interdependent’ processing. Moreover, a phenomenological enquiry into the lived experience of depression suggests that this deficiency extends into the most basic level of subjective awareness, representing a global qualitative alteration within the depression experience that satisfies criteria for an NSC.

Consequently, I characterise depression as a ‘Hyper-ordinary’ state of consciousness that is antithetical to certain NSCs, particularly in terms of ‘interdependent’ processing, and consisting in important alterations neglected by diagnostic criteria. The picture of depression that emerges from this account is of a profoundly isolated state, characterised by a fundamental deficit in the individual’s susceptibility to be affected by their context, and the perception that one’s context cannot be affected by the individual. The profound enhancement in ‘interdependent’ processing within certain NSCs may serve to reverse this pattern in depression. Indeed, I argue that, beyond mere correlation, the production of certain NSCs may mediate the reduction in depressive symptoms. I suggest that the degree to which an NSC can reduce depression is a function of the degree to which ‘interdependent’ processing occurs within the state, and endures thereafter.

PAUL LIKNAITZKY has a PhD in Psychology from the University of Melbourne and an undergraduate honours degree in Neuroscience from the University of Western Australia. His research interests include the antidepressant mechanisms of altered states of consciousness, depression aetiology, cognitive mechanisms underlying perseverative thinking and behaviour in psychopathology, cognitive flexibility interventions, ‘third wave’ interventions, and adaptive ambulatory interventions for psychopathology. He works as a Research Fellow at the School of Psychology at Deakin University.