Interview with Francis Crick
Mishlove, Jeffery; Transcript from Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery
CRICK: That's right. And of course because it's like that, that explains why very tiny amounts of chemicals can alter people's behavior, because they go and sit on some of these molecules, different types of them, and that alters -- for example, you can have one the signal which is to calm down the neuron. And if you therefore put a chemical which increases that, that will calm you down or send you to sleep, if that's what sleeping pills are. And we've seen that, of course, recently in things like Prozac. So that's why tiny amounts of chemicals will do that. In the case of LSD, for example, you only need 150 micrograms to have all these funny experiences, you see. It's minute. And that's because they fit into special places, these little molecules, these drugs which you take. They fit into special places in these other molecules. They've been tailored to do that.
MISHLOVE: Do you have a sense of the process by which hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD, or psychedelic drugs, actually affect the brain? What is going on there?
CRICK: Well, I don't have a detailed knowledge, no, I don't, and I'm not sure that anybody else really knows. They have a rough idea.
MISHLOVE: We know that obviously there's a chemical influence.
CRICK: Well, typically, different ones act in different ways. But a common thing is to see colors more vividly, for example, and often to see things move in a way when they're not actually moving, and things of that sort. So they boost up in some way the activities of what you might call the color parts of the brain and the moving parts of the brain and so on. But the government isn't very keen on giving money for research on that sort of thing.
MISHLOVE: Not at all. Well, I suppose many neuroscientists would feel that the study of the chemical interactions at the synapses of the brain is a very fruitful area for research.
CRICK: Absolutely, but most of it's done in the context of mental illness or conditions like depression and things of that sort.
MISHLOVE: Your agenda is to look at the nervous system more intensely in order to understand consciousness, whereas other neuroscientists, I think, are looking at smaller problems than the problem of consciousness. What are some of the experiments or approaches that you would like to see done to further elucidate the mystery of consciousness?
CRICK: Well, of course our main interest is in the visual system, because we think that's the easiest way to approach it. So let me address that. The basic paradigm you want to use is you have a person or an animal, a monkey, looking at something which can be perceived in two different ways. You probably remember those drawings of Escher, for example, and you can draw a simple outline of a cube.
Web Resource: www.intuition.org
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