Like Cold Water in My Left Ear

[Dr. Ramachandran] posits two different reasoning modules located in the two different hemispheres. The left brain tries to fit the data to the theory to preserve a coherent internal narrative and prevent a person from jumping back and forth between conclusions upon each new data point. It is primarily an apologist, there to explain why any experience is exactly what its own theory would have predicted. The right brain is the seat of the second virtue. When it’s had enough of the left-brain’s confabulating, it initiates a … paradigm shift to a completely new narrative.


For some reason, squirting cold water into the left ear canal wakes up the revolutionary. Maybe the intense sensory input from an unexpected source makes the right hemisphere unusually aroused. Maybe distoring the balance sense causes the eyes to move rapidly, activating a latent system for inter-hemisphere co-ordination usually restricted to REM sleep3. In any case, a patient who has been denying paralysis for weeks or months will, upon having cold water placed in the ear, admit to paralysis, admit to having been paralyzed the past few weeks or months, and express bewilderment at having ever denied such an obvious fact. And then the effect wears off, and the patient not only denies the paralysis but denies ever having admitted to it.

via Yvain

One of the things that has always baffled me about psychedelics such as LSD, LSA or psilocybin (the active ingredient of “magic mushrooms”) is that their actions seem far too specific to be caused by a simple substance.

The effect I am referring to is that for some people and in some contexts, they cause what is often called a spiritual experience, i.e., experience that is deeply meaningful to the user and possibly long-term world-view (and behaviour) altering.

Look for example at this study

There’s also this active study which is the object of a 12 minute report available on Youtube

From my limited experience, and from what I observed in friends, I would say that psychedelics can be used to increase rationality, specifically by eliminating those sources of irrationality stemming from self-deception. They seem to allow the reexamination of deeply ingrained beliefs about the self and the world, that are beyond everyday reach.

via comment on Yvain’s piece

If activating the right hemisphere leads to the ability to overturn current beliefs, why does the patient go back to their old beliefs after the effects wear off?

Good objection. But those people are brain-damaged. Maybe in normal people the insight will stick. If you try it, videotape yourself, just in case you revert.

When this test is done to patients in a hospital, the patient is lying in bed on his back facing upward towards the ceiling. Ice cold water, 60 ml total, is introduced into one ear canal using a syringe. This is repeated in the other ear canal.