Psychedelic Information Theory : Chapter 11
Hallucinations have formal properties that can shed light on their origins. Entoptic hallucinations are characterized by geometric forms originating in the retina and optic tract.1 Eidetic hallucinations are characterized by photographic images originating from the hippocampus and medial temporal lobe.2 There is also a third type of hallucination not covered by these other formal categories; erratic hallucinations, or hallucinations originating in the loss of multisensory frame stability. Optical illusions that exploit rendering ambiguities in peripheral vision can be described as erratic hallucination (Fig. 1). Parasthesia, or phantom tingling sensations due to oxygen loss or nerve trauma can also be described as erratic hallucinations.
Like entoptic hallucination, the origin of erratic hallucination is a destabilization of multisensory processing and sensory signal coupling. Erratic hallucinations caused by 5-HT2A agonism include wiggling and drifting of line and shadow; frame stacking and recursive frame cascading; and temporal and spatial disorientation caused by loss of multisensory cohesion. Erratic psychedelic hallucination begins at low doses with simple formal boundary errors, and becomes more acute at higher doses, leading to the total loss of multisensory frame stability. Loss of multisensory stability under the influence of psychedelics resembles states of schizophrenia.
Breathing Walls, Melting Textures, Creeping Carpets
Subjects under the influence of hallucinogens report breathing walls, creeping carpets, and melting textures. These effects are all similar in that they represent a loss of stability in sharp line, contrast, and texture detail in visual memory. This can be described as a rendering ambiguity error, and indicates a drifting of contrast information both laterally and radially across the cortex. This drifting in the visual field is most prominent in the periphery where the retinal blind-spots are working with incomplete data to begin with. This orientation ambiguity is exploited in optical-illusions which evoke rotational movement (Fig. 2).
Hallucinations of creeping line, depth, and shadow are caused by a loss of lateral or localized inhibition within cortical circuits.3 The level of disinhibition and drift in the visual field is proportional to the dose of hallucinogen, and this assumption is proved correct by individual reports of hallucinogen use. While at lower doses there may only be a slight wiggling or drifting to the rendering of line and depth, at higher doses the lines and color between solid forms may appear to bend, swirl, or melt into one another.4 The inability to alias smooth lines or hold sharp contrast between objects is the definition of linear destabilization.
The melting or drifting of textures seen on psychedelics originates in the layers of the visual cortex, but there are other similar inhibitory mechanisms which stabilize sensory cohesion across the entire brain. By applying disinhibition to audio networks, a subject under the influence of psychedelics may hear an echo or murmur rising in the wake of each sound. By applying disinhibition to tactile networks the subject might feel phantom sensual fluid sensations rippling along the skin. These hallucination patterns are distinct in that they arise like a wiggling or fluid ripple in the wake of stimulus, causing a loss of sensory field stability similar to a dripping or melting.
Frame Destabilization and Frame Stacking
The seamless nature of human perception depends on the fast updating of sensory frame information. Humans update waking frame information at roughly the beta range of consciousness, around 12-30hz, which is why animation, film, TV, and computer screens all appear seamless in the 24-60hz range. Psychedelics destabilize smooth frame processing by interrupting pathways responsible for multisensory binding.5 At low doses hallucinogenic interruption is felt as entoptic hallucination, but at higher doses modulatory interruption leads to more extreme frame destabilization. Subjects under the influence of tryptamine hallucinogens report sensory frame lag and slow-motion frames; frame delay or echo; frame flange or recursive looping; frame stacking or frame freezing; frame rewind and fast forward; dropped frames; split or bifurcating frames; frame skipping; and similar non-linear frame effects. These are all examples of extreme erratic hallucination linked to multisensory frame destabilization.
To account for various types of hallucination related to multisensory frame destabilization the following theory of hallucinogenic Frame Stacking has been proposed.6 To create the perception of fluid movement from frame to frame, any frame we perceive must be a composite of at least two frames, one arising and one fading. Each frame is associated with a neural spike train involving some feedback to the thalamus and basal structures to fix the frame’s snapshot in working memory. These feedback circuits normally neutralize in about 1/15th of a second, allowing for multisensory frame update of @15hz. If hallucinogens interrupt the process of frame neutralization for some small period of time, each frame then begins to fade more slowly until frame data stacks up and feeds back on incoming perception. As recurrent information from multiple previous frames replicates and stacks into incoming frames, each perceptual frame splits or bifurcates in exponential complexity. This recursive pattern of exponentially receding complexity is the formal mathematical definition of a nonlinear system.
Frame stacking is considered to be progressive with hallucinogenic dose and grows from mild to extreme. At low doses you might have four frames stacked in perception instead of two; three fading and one arising. With three fading frames you may begin to see softening of edges or intensification of colors as the saturation of each frame stacks over the next. With eight frames stacked you might see visual artifacts like jitters or trails in the wake of any movement, similar to visual flange or video feedback (Fig. 3). While holding the eyes still an increase in frame overlay makes solid objects crystallize into something very fascinating and precious like a faceted jewel, creating a quality of temporal depth and luminance to every surface and texture. An increase in frame overlay also creates enhanced edge smoothing between solid objects, which gives reality a sensation of liquidity or stretchiness like surreal art, graffiti, or a cartoon (Fig. 4). As frames regress the perspective of perceptual space may begin to elongate like a fish-eye lens (Fig. 5). If a fading frame produces an emotionally salient pattern, the salient frame can then feed back into the arising frame as a progressively animated eidetic loop. When sixteen frames are stacked in perception the wake of overlapping content causes frame saturation, confusion, disorientation, dropped frames, ego loss, and missing time. Beyond sixteen stacked frames the information density becomes too large for the linear human brain to comprehend; ego consciousness is overwhelmed and totally destabilizes into a nonlinear state of timeless transpersonal unity.
The Frame Stacking Model presumes that hallucinogens enable a perceptual frame buffer that allows for sorting and browsing through multiple simultaneous linear frames; or that frame perception might be splintered into a radial kaleidoscope of multi-threaded parallel processing frames (Fig. 6). Within the context of frame stacking psychedelic consciousness may enable the subject to scroll back and forth in time; retrieve multiple simultaneous memories from a single stimulus; and project multiple versions of the self into multiple imaginary future scenarios. If the consciousness of a single person can be momentarily realized within three frames – the arising frame, the fading frame, and a static frame which holds the idealized concept of self – then the persistence of six or more frames could lead to the fabrication of two or more fully realized identities within a single subject. This frame splitting effect may explain how people can have conversations with phantom friends or relatives, or how a shaman might invoke anthropomorphized plant spirits with distinct personalities.
Multisensory Destabilization and Schizophrenia
In large doses hallucinogens can produce multisensory destabilization; a state where sensations, objects, time, and space become entirely decoupled from each other in consciousness. The sensation of time uncoupling or of space losing it boundaries is difficult to describe as hallucination, but it is clearly hallucination. Loss of sensory or temporal frame cohesion implies multisensory destabilization and erratic hallucination. Externally the subject may be awake and responsive, but internally the brain has lost all state data and is completely disoriented.7 This state can be simultaneously hysterical or terrifying, which describes the extreme mood shifts associated with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is linked to the inability to retain multisensory frame stability and decreased ability to produce the fast gamma oscillations needed to focus sensory perception.8,10 Multisensory destabilization is also reproduced by the hallucinogenic dissociatives ketamine and dextromethorphan (DXM) by blocking associative NMDA pathways necessary for fast sensory binding.9
 See "Entoptic Hallucination"
 See "Eidetic Hallucination"
 Kass L, Hartline PH, Adolph AR , 'Presynaptic uptake blockade hypothesis for LSD action at the lateral inhibitory synapse in Limulus'. The Journal of General Physiology, Vol 82, 245-267
 Accounts of tryptamine psychedelics producing hallucinations of melting textures, creeping carpets, and breathing walls taken from a survey of subjective reports. Accounts of hallucinations of objects melting and pouring into one another taken from a survey of high-dose subjective reports.
 See "Control Interrupt Model of Psychedelic Action"
 The Frame Stacking Model of Hallucinogenic Action was proposed by a Canadian researcher who wishes to remain anonymous. The model is based on first-hand experimentation with LSD and Salvia divinorum, and is presented here as a brief edit of a much longer correspondence on the subject of hallucinogenic frame stacking.
 Accounts of psychedelic intoxication matching states of schizophrenia taken from subjective reports and surveys of case studies.
 Cho RY, Konecky RO, Carter CS, 'Impairments in frontal cortical gamma synchrony and cognitive control in schizophrenia'. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Dec 26;103(52):19878-83. Epub 2006 Dec 14.
 Bonta IL, 'Schizophrenia, dissociative anaesthesia and near-death experience; three events meeting at the NMDA receptor'. Med Hypotheses. 2004;62(1):23-8.
 Colgin, Laura Lee, et al., 'Frequency of gamma oscillations routes flow of information in the hippocampus'. Nature 462, 353-357 (19 November 2009); doi:10.1038/nature08573
Citation: Kent, James L. Psychedelic Information Theory: Shamanism in the Age of Reason, Chapter 11, 'Erratic Hallucination'. PIT Press, Seattle, 2010.
Copyright: © James L. Kent, 2010. Some Rights Reserved. Please read copyright information before reproducing.