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Alterations of consciousness manifest an enigmatic capacity that engages our most profound capacities for knowledge. Their ritual and spontaneous manifestations share transcultural features, manifesting similarities in soul flight, possession, and mystical experiences that reflect intrinsic features of human nature and biology. Linking the phenomenal nature of these experiences to the associated physiological processes provides a biological framework for identifying the origins and functions of these experiences. Altered consciousness results from stimulation of the neuromodulatory systems of serotonin, dopamine and the endocannabinoids. The shamanic soul flight is characterized in phenomenological, neurological and epistemological terms as involving specific modalities of representation of environment, self, other, attachments and emotions. Biological approaches to the alteration of consciousness provide foundations for characterizing these experiences in terms of an integrative mode of consciousness typified by slow wave brain patterns that synchronize the frontal cortex with discharges from ancient brain levels. This perspective places alterations of consciousness within a framework that illustrates their role in human cognitive evolution, adaptation and epistemic specialization.
Pour citer cet article :Winkelman Michael J. (2017/1). Biogenetic and Neurophenomenological Perspectives on the Alteration of Consciousness. In Dumas Guillaume & Fortier Martin & González Juan C. (Eds), Debating altered states of consciousness: Pitfalls of past research and rising new paradigms, Intellectica, 67, (pp.97-138), DOI: 10.3406/intel.2017.1838.