Timo Torsten Schmidt

Timo Torsten Schmidt, PhD

Freie Universität Berlin

fMRI studies of non-pharmacologically induced altered states of consciousness: A comparison of Ganzfeld and Visual Flicker induced states


Recent pharmacological studies on the nature of altered states of consciousness with psychedelic substances such as LSD and psilocybin have emphasized the importance of thalamo-cortical interactions for the emergence of hallucinations. The finding of increased thalamo-cortical coupling suggested reduced thalamic filtering to be a driving mechanism of hallucinations. Here, I will present data from two fMRI studies in which non-pharmacological methods were used to induce altered states of consciousness that comprise hallucinatory experiences. In the first study (N = 19) we used multimodal Ganzfeld stimulation – a technique of perceptual deprivation, where participants are exposed to intense, however, unstructured, homogenous visual and auditory stimulation. In the second study (N = 20) we applied visual flicker stimulation with 3 Hz or 11 Hz, which is frequently used as recreational technique and is well known for its induction of intense, colorful and vivid illusory percepts with strong immersive properties. Before, during and after the interventions we acquired fMRI resting-state data.


Since 2018 Post-Doc at Neurocomputation and Neuroimaging Unit, Freie Universität Berlin

2013 – 2018 PhD (summa cum laude) Computational Neuroscience

Graduate School: Sensory Computation in Neural Systems (3-year PhD stipend)

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Felix Blankenburg, Prof. Dr. Hauke Heekeren

Bernstein Center for Computational Neurosciene (BCCN), Berlin

Neurocomputation and Neuroimaging Unit (NNU), Freie Universität, Berlin

2009 – 2011 Master (with distinction) Medical Neuroscience

International Graduate Program Medical Neurosciences

NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence, Charite Universitätsmedizin, Berlin

2005 – 2009 Bachelor (with distinction) Cognitive Science

Institute for Cognitive Science, University of Osnabrück



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