Taking “magic mushrooms”, “LSD” or other psychoactive drugs is definitely one way to explore consciousness, but have you ever wondered if there was a safer alternative? A recent study by Dr. David Schwartzman and his team at the University of Sussex now suggests that flickering light can induce similar states of awareness that psilocybin does.
Dr. Schwartzman and his team collected data on brainwave measurements, neural activity and experiential reports during wakeful rest, a psilocybin experience and an experience with the stroboscopic Lucia N°03.
They concluded that: “the ability of stroboscopic stimulation to induce altered phenomenology with marked similarities to psychedelic ASC, along with similar changes in neural activity (increased signal diversity, reduced alpha power), suggests it may provide an alternative to or adjunct method alongside psychedelic therapy.” (Schwartzman, et. al, 58-59)
Psychedelic substances have been making a comeback in clinical trials but this study shows the possibility of accessing similar states of consciousness and the correlated benefits without ingesting any substances. Instead, these states of consciousness can be accessed with light: specifically a solid and stroboscopic light called the Lucia N°03.
This is great news for anyone who wants to explore the benefits that psychedelics can initiate without ingesting any substances, or for anyone wanting to supplement and integrate their psychedelic experiences through another medium.
What is the Lucia N°03?
Developed at the base of Tyrolean Alps in Austria, the Lucia N°03 is a system that uses solid and flickering light to induce an altered state. It was created by Dr. Engelbert Winkler (psychologist, hypnotherapist and legal consultant for youth) and Dr. Dirk Proeckl (medical neurologist and psychiatrist) nearly a decade ago.
Following the age-old tradition of using flickering light to get into a meditative state (think campfires), the Lucia N°03 invites the light traveler into a expanded state of consciousness. It is also known as a “hypnagogic light machine” referring to the dreamy place between wakefulness and sleep. Reported benefits include: clarity, increased creativity, deep relaxation, inner peace and other-worldly experiences.
Similar to reported benefits of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, the Lucia N°03 invites the light traveler to let go of the stresses of daily life and relax into a beautiful world of colors, patterns and images created by their own brain.
What are You Truly Experiencing? Measuring States of Consciousness Within the Brain
While self-reports from experiences in altered states have been around for decades, some members of the scientific community have been seeking out the best ways to track and analyze them within the brain.
The most well-known method for measuring states of consciousness within the brain is through brainwave measurements using an EEG. This is a tool that measures the amplitude of different brain waves such as beta, alpha, theta, delta and gamma. This method has been helpful for understanding certain aspects of conscious experience, particularly in relation to meditative and spiritual experiences. Findings show a correlation between reduced alpha power and coherency within the brain.
However, recent studies on ketamine, LSD and psilocybin have found another method for measuring these states in the brain beyond what is recorded on an EEG. These look at the spontaneous complexity of activity in the brain as a marker for the degree of expanded consciousness.
Studies have shown a significant difference in the spontaneous activation of neurons in the brain when people are awake verses when they are asleep or sedated. When people are under the influence of psychedelic substances, diverse spontaneous neural activity is even higher than the normal waking state. So people, are “more awake” than usual, so to speak. There are also specific correlations between self-reported “ego-dissolution” and very high diversity of neural signals.
To explore this method of measuring consciousness more deeply and to avoid the inherent complications of the diverse responses of the individual’s body/system to the neuropsychopharmalogical changes in response to ingesting psychedelic substances, Dr. Schwartzman used this same procedure to measure the spontaneous signal diversity in people while they were experiencing flickering light from the Lucia N°03 (a “non-pharmacological” altered state). While experiencing both 3 Hz and 10 Hz of flickering light, spontaneous EEG signal diversity scores were significantly higher than during wakeful rest…“a similar pattern of results to those found with psychedelic compounds (LSD, psilocybin and ketamine).” (44).
What Did You See? Perception and the Visual Experience
Past studies on visual perception under flickering light have found closed-eye visuals to be geometric in nature and specifically related to the frequency of the flicker rate. However for those who have tried the Lucia N°03 light experience on multiple occasions, visuals are not limited to geometry. While certain patterns do arise regularly, there are also accounts of bright and variant colors, complex visuals, dream-like scenes, memories, or even other worlds and visitations by beings like deceased loved ones or spirit guides.
Dr. Schwartzman and his team, for the sake of simplicity and timing, only shared the Lucia N°03 light experience to volunteers at 3 Hz and 10 Hz for 10 minutes each. Even with these shorter sessions, at 3 Hz, 12 out of 19 participants described witnessing complex visual hallucinations (CVH) such as faces or realistic scenes. These reports exceeded the expectations of the researchers, and on a physiological level correlated to higher spontaneous EEG diversity scores and a reduction in the alpha brain-wave power. If you recall, this demonstrates both greater coherency in the brain and more awakened states. The 10 minute 10 Hz experience was also reported to be very visual with reports by volunteers were centered on colors and geometric patterns.
Tell Me More: Anecdotal Self-Reports
The third way in which the Lucia N°03’s flickering light was compared to data on a psilocybin experience was through self-reported intensity and an adapted questionnaire on aspects of perception of an altered state of consciousness.
The diagram above, which can be found on page 23 of the study, shows the differences in self-rated measures such as intensity, past, peace, merge, etc. Interestingly, there are many similarities between the self-reported measures of the psilocybin experience and the experiences with the stroboscopic light of the Lucia N°03.
Over The Rainbow: Support, Critiques and a Call for More Research
While the EEG has been around for decades, finding new neurological markers for expanded states of consciousness is exciting. Understanding the diverse neural activation that occurs during an altered state of consciousness is a way for science to ground some of the theories about how these states alter our reality.
Even more exciting is the idea that these states can be accessed through legal methods such as the experience of stroboscopic light from the Lucia N°03.
However, as with all pioneering studies, there were several limitations. First of all, the length of the two different sessions with the Lucia N°03 were only 10 minutes each. From my own years of anecdotal research offering Lucia N°03 light sessions, I have noticed it can take 20-60 minutes of continuous light for a first-time light traveler to sink deeply into the experience. It would be interesting to replicate this study with two or three times the length of sessions, while also comparing singular frequencies with one of the pre-programmed Lucia N°03 sessions that use a variety of frequencies throughout the session.
As with other studies on altered states of consciousness, these experiences were offered in a clinical or semi-clinical setting in order to maintain a rigor of experimental control. However, it would be interesting to see how different settings would alter the self-reported experience and takeaways from the light travelers. Timothy Leary famously proclaimed that up to 99% of the LSD experience was dependent on the “set and setting,.” Therefore variations in ambiance, preparation and space-holding of the researcher might drastically change the experience of the light traveler.
Despite these critiques, it is both refreshing and exciting to see scientific studies investigating the different ways to access these states and measure them. My deepest gratitude and respect go to Dr. Schwartzman and his team at the University of Sussex.
Check out the full study for yourself here.
Schwartzman, David J. et. al. “Increased spontaneous EEG signal diversity during stroboscopically-induced altered states of consciousness.” Jan. 4, 2019; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/511766.
FAQ about the Lucia N°03:
- Where can I experience the Lucia N°03 for myself?
If you are interested in experiencing a Lucia N°03 light session, you can book a session with a local light guide in your area. They can be found here.
- Where can I learn more about the Lucia N°03?
Check out our website – www.lucialightexperience.com/ or contact Allison with any questions or comments – firstname.lastname@example.org
- How often can/should you experience the Lucia N°03? Is this something that could be addictive?
Beyond experiencing an expanded state of consciousness and the correlated potential benefits of: meditative and spiritual experiences, a fresh/broadened perspective on life, etc., the Lucia N°03 is also deeply relaxing for the nervous system. Full sessions are generally 30 minutes – 1 hour and a series of 6+ sessions is recommended to assist in lowering the baseline level of stress and accessing a flow state of consciousness, deepening presence, inner peace and patience. The initial series of sessions can be experienced from 1-3x a week.
While the Lucia N°03 is a powerful even the first time, further sessions assist in dropping deeper into the experience and receiving more benefits. Recently we have released a “Home Portal” which is a smaller and more portable version of the Lucia N°03 that is designed specifically for personal use.
The Lucia N°03 is not addictive, however new light aficionados often enjoy immersing in the light experience up to once a day for their first few months of using the lamp. As restrictive patterns shift, the urge to work with the lamp naturally tapers off to once or twice a week, or even every other week. I have personally been working with the Lucia N°03 for 5 years and my personal preferences have gone through different phases over the years. I have spent up to a few months away from it as well as immersing every day for months at a time. My experience with the Lucia N°03 has moved me out of a state of perpetual trauma and depression to a stable, positive, thriving state where even when life offers challenges, I am able to find peace in my response to them.
Questions? Email email@example.com
Recent research by Dr. Li-Huei Tsai and her colleagues at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has demonstrated the power of flickering light in combating Alzheimer’s disease in mice.
Alzheimer’s disease affects over 5 million people in the US alone. It is a type of dementia that effects learning, intellectual ability, memory and behavior. Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovered clumps of amyloid plaques and tangled tau brain fibers in a woman’s brain in 1906. Another notable feature of Alzheimer’s disease patients is lack of healthy gamma wave oscillations. So far, attempts to use drugs to prevent or clear amyloid plaque formation have been unsuccessful.
Inside the human brain are billions of different neurons. The junctions between different neurons are called synapses. Electrical signals fire through the brain synapses, bringing millions of neurons into synchrony in cycles, or waves. These are known as brainwaves. The speed and amplitude of these brainwaves are linked to certain states of consciousness, which are classified into five distinct categories. These brainwave frequencies range from delta waves (.5-3hz) to gamma waves (25-100+hz). Your synapses actually fire in all of these different frequency waves simultaneously, however one frequency at a time is usually dominant. Each person’s brainwave signatures (combinations of waves including amplitude of each brainwave) are unique.
Gamma Brainwaves and Dr. Tsai’s Study
Gamma brainwaves, which are impaired in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, are the highest frequency of brainwaves. They are associated with higher learning, deep meditation, altruism and communication between different parts of the brain.
Instead of trying to directly clear the amalyoid plaques or untangle the tau fibers, Dr. Tsai and her team focused on the gamma wave. They found that they could encourage the mice’s brain to produce gamma waves by using flashing lights at 40hz. Microglia (the brain’s cleanup crew) were activated by this stimulation and returned to the their normal job of assisting with the immune response by consuming the harmful amyloid beta plaque.
Therefore, after flashing a 40hz frequency for 1 hour at mice with Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Tsai and her team found a 50% reduction of beta amayloid plaques. The original effects only worked for 12-24 hours. After this period the microglia became sluggish again and the amayloid plaques began to build back up. Thus, they tried again. This time they gave the mice 1 hour of 40hz stimulation for 7 days in a row. They saw great improvement. They also saw a marked decrease in the tangled tau fibers in the brain, which is another main feature of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Bottom Line
As Alzheimer’s is considered an irreversible and progressive brain disorder, this study represents very exciting research. Whether this will work on humans as effectively as mice remains to be seen. As Dr. Tsai herself commented as the main result of the study, “Our findings uncover a previously unappreciated function of gamma rhythms in recruiting both neuronal and glial responses to attenuate Alzheimer’s-disease-associated pathology.”
Also exciting though is Dr. Tsai’s approach, which activates the brain back to normal functioning without drugs, so that it can heal itself.
Access the full journal article here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v540/n7632/full/nature20587.html
Listen to an entertaining podcast about it here:
When I first experienced the Lucia nearly 4 years ago, the very first thing I remember was being welcomed by a “warm glow.” Many people include this “warmth” in their descriptions of their encounters with the Lucia N°03. In fact, the Lucia N°03 company has a patent on this potent combination of solid and flickering light. Instead of just being shoved under strobe light (which can cause high anxiety for many people), the Lucia always welcomes you in with soft light provided by the central halogen bulb and gently guides you back when a session is over.
2. VARIABILITY OF INTENSITY
The combination of the solid and flickering light provided by the Lucia N°03 creates an absolutely unmatchable experience – an experience that can reach everyone, in every moment. Feeling stressed, exhausted or anxious? No worries, try a gentle session! There are over 20 gentle sessions to choose from. Feeling ready for something intense and powerfully moving? There are over 40 strong sessions to choose from. Would you like a session that is relaxing but still has moments of climax? How about a Dimensions session? Or what about one that starts gently and then slowly builds up? Stargate sounds great! The Lucia can offer it it all. With over 100 pre-programmed sessions (and many more in the works) you have a vast array of sessions to choose from. And remember – no experience is ever the same! Even if you choose the same session over and over – it will be different for you each time!
3. PAUSING IN YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT
Lucia N°03 sessions go through a variety of different frequencies and levels of brightness, which cause different visual effects. Most people find moments when they feel absolutely lifted, joyous -- overwhelmed with gratitude and positivity. The Lucia N°03 has the unique ability to pause in these moments and extend them for as long as possible. This feature is great for light attendants – you can pause the session when you see your client break out into a grin or drop into a deep meditative state. It is also great if you are giving yourself a session, for you can pause it whenever you feel like it, for as long as you’d like, with a simple click of the mouse. There is even a session called “Lazy Sunday Afternoon” that was designed specifically for this purpose. It is only 10 minutes long, but travels through a wide range of frequencies, so you can pause and dive in to a vast array of different incredible visuals, created by the unique beauty of your own mind.
4. DYNAMIC BRIGHTNESS LEVELS
Another wonderful feature of the Lucia N°03 is the option to change the brightness of the lamp during a session. This is a wonderful feature for light attendants, for if a client is wincing against the brightness of the light, the light attendant can turn down the brightness, immediately making the experience more comfortable. Additionally, the halogen in the center softens the brightness as well, so you are not just being blasted by LEDs that can’t be turned down much, but rather you can choose your experience and make it the perfect one for this perfect moment. If you are giving yourself a light session or would prefer to adjust the brightness yourself, you can also use the mouse to adjust the brightness on your own.
5. CREATING LIVE SESSIONS
Once you get to know the Lucia, you can start to not only develop your own sessions – but you can create live sessions as well! You are essentially a DJ of the light, creating loops of different intensities and creating an absolutely unique session for the person on the light. You can even record the session so you can try it for yourself later!
6. TAKING A SNAPSHOT
Once you delve into the world of creating your own sessions, you can start to customize them by recreating moments that you or your client already love with the snapshot function. Simply click the roller of the mouse and a photo of the arrangement of frequencies and brightness with be saved for later – allowing you to recreate the moment yourself for a uniquely designed session.
7. MAKING A PLAYLIST
It is now possible to upload playlists of your favorite mp3s onto the Lucia N°03 laptop – so you can play music and give sessions all from the same place!