Scientists Find LSD Makes The Brain More Complete
And No, They Were Not Tripping
By Rishabh Banerji
April 25, 2016
There’s some good news for the acid lovers. According to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team led by Robin Carhart-Harris from Imperial College London has found that acid, or LSD or Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, makes our brain more complete. The scientists conducted the research on 20 healthy minds who already had prior experience with LSD because that was an important criterion. They studied how the mind changed as it reacted to LSD. The new brain images give scientists the opportunity to make new theories for the visual hallucinations that we get on a “trip”.
which, everyone rated their hallucinations.
Senior researcher and neuropsychopharmacology professor David Nutt from Imperial College London said, “For the first time, we can really see what’s happening in the brain during the psychedelic state, and can better understand why LSD had such a profound impact on self-awareness.” Several imaging techniques were used to map the brain, including fMRI and magnetoencephalography (MEG). Each participant was injected with 75 micrograms of LSD (as much as a normal drop) or a placebo consisting of a saline solution. The volunteers tripped under brain scanners as the machine recorded their brain doing all sorts of things on acid. Post which, everyone rated their hallucinations.
The study showed that during the trip, the parts of the brain that are generally separated, connect with each other. Some images also showed that certain parts of the brain that stay together in groups get segregated among people high on LSD. Which is exactly why some of the drug’s users call it a mind opening experience. The changes which take place in the mind change the individual’s sense of oneness with the universe. Experts are calling this phenomenon the ” ego dissolution”, where a thought or an idea of self is completely broken and moulded into the one that connects with them and the others. Dr. Robin Cahart-Harris, who led the research, says, “In many ways, the brain in the LSD state resembles the state our brains were in when we were infants: free and unconstrained.” “This also makes sense when we consider the hyper-emotional and imaginative nature of an infant’s mind.”
Generally, users typically describe seeing geometric shapes crawling around, colours looking prettier than ever and other objects with the power to create a rippling effect, or to “breathe”. LSD mimics serotonin (a neurotransmitter that influences mood), and it hijacks the serotonin system in some interesting ways. When the drug binds or sticks to one particular serotonin receptor, it changes the shape of the receptor, and that leads to a number of downstream effects, such as hallucinations and altered states of consciousness.
A very interesting point to be noted is a resemblance in characteristics of LSD with psychological disorders. An acid trip has a striking resemblance with certain psychological disorders like early stage psychosis, schizophrenia, and depression. Carhart-Harris hopes that studies like these can give an insight on how certain drugs, including psychedelics, can help in “rebooting” the human mind and remove these inaccuracies in the brain. It would still take some time to get a conclusive answer he admits. Talking about the same, Carhart-Harris points out, “This study tells us not just about what LSD does, but also the nature of normal brain function,” “You need these systems to be intact in order to have [the senses] we rely on,” he added.