Study Shows How LSD Mimics Infant's Mind as Ego Dissolves
Groundbreaking brain scans by a crowdfunded study at Imperial College London show how LSD affects the brain and consciousness.
A groundbreaking series of experiments show how LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) alters the operation of the brain. Scientists gave LSD to 20 healthy volunteers in a specialist research center and used cutting-edge brain scanning techniques to understand what happens once the LSD is ingested.
One significant finding of the experiments was that when volunteers took LSD, many parts of their brain contributed to visual processing, not just the visual cortex. They could essentially see things that weren’t there, experiencing dreamlike hallucinations.
Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, who led the research, elaborated on this discovery:
"We observed brain changes under LSD that suggested our volunteers were 'seeing with their eyes shut' -- albeit they were seeing things from their imagination rather than from the outside world. We saw that many more areas of the brain than normal were contributing to visual processing under LSD -- even though the volunteers' eyes were closed. Furthermore, the size of this effect correlated with volunteers' ratings of complex, dreamlike visions. "
Dr. Carthart-Harris explained further that under LSD, people’s brain networks behave in a “unified” way, with specialized functions like vision, movement and hearing working without separation.
He said: ”Our results suggest that this effect underlies the profound altered state of consciousness that people often describe during an LSD experience. It is also related to what people sometimes call 'ego-dissolution', which means the normal sense of self is broken down and replaced by a sense of reconnection with themselves, others and the natural world. This experience is sometimes framed in a religious or spiritual way -- and seems to be associated with improvements in well-being after the drug's effects have subsided."
FIG. 1: Whole-brain cerebral blood flow maps for the placebo and LSD conditions, plus the difference map (cluster-corrected, P < 0.05; n = 15).
Interestingly, Dr. Carthart-Harris also said that the brain in the LSD state resembles the free and unconstrained brain of infancy, with its inherent hyper-emotionality and imaginative nature. He added that “our brains become more constrained and compartmentalized as we develop from infancy into adulthood, and we may become more focused and rigid in our thinking as we mature.”
It's noteworthy that the study was crowdfunded, raising almost $80,000 from individual donations. You can see their crowdfunding pitch which explains some of their approaches here:
Additional research from the same team showed for the first time that listening to music while on LSD trigged more information to be received from the parahippocampus, which is involved in mental imagery and personal memory. The combination of music and LSD triggered complex visions in the subjects, such as evoking scenes from their lives.
The researchers hope that their findings will eventually lead to new therapies involving LSD, in particular directed at conditions with entrenched negative thought patterns such as depression or addiction. The intention is to disrupt negative patterns by employing psychedelics.
"Scientists have waited 50 years for this moment -- the revealing of how LSD alters our brain biology. 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 in users and on music and art. This could have great implications for psychiatry, and helping patients overcome conditions such as depression,” said Professor David Nutt, the senior researcher on the study and Edmond J Safra Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London.
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
The legacy of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who led Soviet secret police in the "Red Terror," still confounds Russia.
- Felix Dzerzhinsky led the Cheka, Soviet Union's first secret police.
- The Cheka was infamous for executing thousands during the Red Terror of 1918.
- The Cheka later became the KGB, the spy organization where Russia's President Putin served for years.
She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.
- For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
- These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
- Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.
The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.