Ego death is the experience of letting go of your sense of self. Also called ego dissolution, ego death can entail a complete release of things that you thought defined you, and it can occur through psychedelic experiences. Often, ego death is a completely life-changing experience.

Sometimes, people look to psychedelics as a way to achieve ego death. They embark on their psychedelic journey, intending to dissolve their sense of self. Other times, ego death is the surprising result of a psychedelic experience.

What Causes Ego Death?

There’s no obvious physiological explanation for ego death.

However, scientists believe that ego death might occur because psychoactive substances act on the part of the brain known as the claustrum. For example, after participants used psilocybin, researchers observed that the claustrum was less active. Since the claustrum is believed to be responsible for attention and perception, it follows that psychedelics could induce ego death by acting on this part of the brain.

Evidence suggests that psychedelic substances act on the brain’s default mode network (DMN). The DMN has been associated with ego death (as well as depression). This network includes the anterior medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and angular gyrus.