Stevens proceeds at his own risk
In making science accessible to the masses, “Mind Field” host Michael Stevens will from time to time make himself the subject of his own experiments – sometimes to his own peril.
That was established in the YouTube Red series’ premiere episode last January, when the 31-year-old Kansan locked himself into a plain white room for three days to document the effects of isolation and sensory deprivation on his mental and physical state. The results, he says, were both surprising and frightening.
“The biggest surprise looking back on it now is how much more mentally acute I was when I came out …,” he says. “But it was scary when the door closed and I realized I’m not coming out for three days. And then it was scary when I stopped being able to ascertain what was real.
“All of my dreams, for whatever reason, were about me in the room,” he continues, “so I couldn’t distinguish if I was dreaming or not. And when weird things begin to happen in my dreams, which were in the room, I didn’t know if, for instance, I’m supposed to leave the room. Did someone just come in? I dreamt they did, but I could not tell what was real. I mean, that’s the classic delusions that we know happen when the brain is starved of stimulation. And so that was the frightening part.”
In Season 2, the educator and creator of the YouTube channel Vsauce continues his investigations of psychology and neuroscience as he explores such areas as mind control, the effects of technology on the brain’s memory centers, the placebo effect and the use of psychedelic drugs to bring about self-healing and personal enlightenment.
For this, Stevens traveled to a Peruvian retreat to participate in a ceremony in which he takes ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink that has been consumed for thousands of years by that South American country’s indigenous people and is said to open its user to the medicine that is the shaman’s song.
After downing the concoction, Stevens initially found himself anxiety-stricken in this unfamiliar state of mind, especially in front of lights and a TV camera, but he soon found a way to work through it.
“I was able to do was overcome a lot of the anxiety I felt during that ceremony by embracing helping others, completely being as unselfish as possible …,” he explains. “I wanted the researchers there to get all the information from me that they wanted. I wanted the crew to have as good of a time as possible. Those things made me feel better and I’ve used that lesson now in my life later.
“You know, a lot of hang-ups and anxieties can be quelled by just realizing, look, it’s not about me or what I’m worried about, I should focus on what other people want from me and how I can help them. And I’ve seen in my life a lot of those personal anxieties evaporate by taking on that approach.”