For a possible research topic, I like the suggestion of the development of new drugs, devices, or therapies, and their benefits and risks. My interest in this topic was originally sparked when I took a biotechnology course last semester and learned about many up and coming medicinal techniques, and even researched a possible new method of disarming the HIV virus.
Though the first topic that came to mind that I’d really like to research is the incorporation of hallucinogenic drugs into culture, and how science can explain their effects, in ancient, recent, and current times. What sparked the idea in this class was Jonah Lehrer’s mention of how hallucinogens produce a feeling of insight without the content. Also, I’ve heard of the use of hallucinogens in a non-recreational way, for the purpose of religious experiences, in many ancient cultures, including those located in Central/South America, and are used widely in shamanism. In Aldous Huxley’s novel of great social commentary, Brave New World, a hallucinogenic drug he called “soma” was universally employed. Then in the 1950’s and 60’s, hallucinogenic drugs, specifically LSD, made a breakthrough into its own subculture, as well as onto the radar of the U.S. government. In more tribal but current cultures, such as the Yanomamo of the rainforests of Brazil and Venezuela that I recently learned about in my anthropology course, a hallucinogen called ebene is taken for religious experiences. And even more recently, hallucinogens are used in western culture somewhat recreationally to “raise consciousness”. I would be interested in doing more research on how exactly hallucinogens operate on the brain to create the effects that people perceive as some sort of transcendent force.