LSD’s impact on the brain

Addiction has always played a role in my family’s life. I find how drugs effect your brain to be very interesting. I found this article talking about the effects of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide otherwise known as LSD very interesting. LSD was first synthesized in 1938. The psychological properties weren’t clear until 1943 and the drug was banned in 1960. The things that this study found are said to be groundbreaking for the neuroscience field.

The study included 20 volunteers who were mentally and physically healthy and agreed to take LSD for science. The group was split up into two days. One day the volunteers received 75 mcg of LSD and the other day volunteers received a placebo. The volunteers were injected with LSD and put through three different imaging techniques. The volunteers reported a oneness with the universe as well as many visual hallucinations. They also experienced many different pictures that researchers were able to track from parts of the brain other than the visual cortex. Researchers also found that areas of the brain that are normally segregated, communicated with each other. As well as areas that normally communicate, were sometimes segregated. This is what is believed to create the feeling of oneness with the universe and the loss of personality known as “ego-dissolution.”

David Nutt, senior researcher on this study said “The findings of this study is to neuroscience what the Higgs boson was to particle physics.” He also stated that neuroscience as a field has waited for these findings for 50 years.

After being injected with the LSD or placebo, volunteers were put through three different kinds of brain imaging: arterial spin labelling, resting state MRI, and magnetoencephalography. The researchers also measured blood flow, connections within and between brain networks, and brain waves of all of the volunteers.

The volunteers on LSD were “seeing with their eyes shut,” which explains the hallucinations and the seeing images from different parts of the brain. The scans also showed a loss of connection between the parahippocampus and the retrosplenial cortex. The drug is also thought to reverse the restricted thinking we learn as early as childhood and throughout adulthood.

The drug is now being studied to see if it could possibly help patients with psychiatric disorders.

8 thoughts on “LSD’s impact on the brain

  1. Natalie Johns

    I’m curious how the scientists were able to give the participants LSD without getting in any legal trouble for giving an illegal controlled substance (even if participants willingly agreed to do so). I’ve seen lots of studies using drugs like cocaine, heroin, and LSD for rats and other animal subjects with no issues but when it involves humans, it seems like its only OK if the participants chosen for a study are those who say that they partake in using illegal substances. It’s interesting to see how the scientists were able to give them an illegal drug to take. Did they check to see if any of the participants ever taken LSD before?

  2. Mary Meghan Rice

    Natalie, I thought about that as well…how were they able to inject a very illegal drug in volunteers…but there was no explanation! They basically said this is what we did and here is what we found. They also never mentioned previous drug use…which plays a role! If the volunteers were regular users I wonder if the brain would be less likely to react over time.

  3. jzaccagn

    Interesting. I agree with Ms. Natalie. How did these people manage to study LSD with humans without legal issues? I read (a long time ago albeit) that scientists had difficulty studying Mary Jane, because of all the legal issues. LSD is wilder than Marijuana. Speaking as a person who is NOT a pharmacologist, I do not see how LSD could be helpful for people with psychiatric disorders. I had an ex-boyfriend with schizophrenia who abused LSD (and Mary Jane). Both of those drugs are known to aggravate hallucinations, and perpetuate the overall disorder. I also had a friend with schizoaffective disorder whose symptoms were aggravated by Mary Jane. MAYBE, there are properties of the drug (LSD) which could be helpful in cognitive disorders, but I remain dubious. I had a cousin who tried to stop a train with his car while tripped out on LSD. He was bright and talented, and now, he is in a wheel chair for life with the cognitive abilities of a two-year old. So, as curious as I am about LSD, I am a bit biased against it. As we have learned in class though, abnormal cases help us learn how the brain functions in normal cases. In that sense, I think LSD could be quite helpful in the clinical setting.

    1. Emily Busbee

      There are plenty of studies that talk about how marijuana used in the medical sense can help to alleviate symptoms of pain from certain health ailments, but I am unsure if LSD could be used to help people in the same context. It would be a very fine line to try and research, and I have no doubt that they would run into a lot of legal boundaries they would have to hop over. While it is interesting, I’m not sure if a drug like LSD could be realistic to emerge into the medical setting for patients.

  4. Rebecca Fetty

    As in all the other comments i am going to have to agree that i am shocked that IRB would approve individuals taking LSD! This was really interesting to read! What i found to be really interesting was that the drug is being researched to determine if it can help people with psychiatric disorders. Since you read the article, did they happen to give you any examples of the disorders it could help? That is such a big step going from a drug to possibly helping cure others!! WOW I would love to see in the future what disorders LSD could help cure, and how? Like what parts of the brain does it reach or why does it help people with specific disorders.

  5. mmalapit

    I’ve always found it interesting how illegal drugs somehow end up in the medical field as a potential “cure” or treatment. My only concern is that you brought up that it was a study? I wonder how this was passed in order to execute the experiment. Additionally, I’m curious as to what kind of psychotic disorders it could treat. LSD is commonly known as a hallucination drug and if injected to cure psychotic disorders, it can’t possibly be for people who already suffer from it. if people already have psychotic disorders without hallucinatory disturbance, do you ever think that giving them hallucinations could worsen it?

  6. ktbug

    I agree with the legality of this study. I was curious to read more and see as to how the LSD could affect (treat/worsen) people with psychotic disorders. As I was doing research I came across Psychology Today article that goes in depth about LSD, suggestibility and personality change, if not the same study that this blog is about, very similar. It states that in the study in the 1960’s that most participants experience an increase in suggestibility under LSD compared to the placebo, which turned out to be statistically significant. And that those who” experienced greater increases in subsequent psychological well-being compared to those who regarded their LSD experience as less satisfying”. I skimmed through but there are some interesting points in the article.

  7. bryanvillalobos

    I really enjoyed your analysis of LSD. Recently I’ve become very intrigued by the use of unconventional drugs to alleviate the symptoms of psychological disorders. Recently, I read an article about the possible use of ecstasy to help with PTSD. In another article, I read about how effective small doses of ketamine can be in treating depression. I know that it might be very odd to think of these drugs, most of which we have been told are dangerous, as ever being helpful but if there is a chance that unconventional drugs may help at least one patient gain their life back then I believe it is worth further investigation. I am not saying that drugs like LSD or ketamine are miracle drugs that should be used on everyone. What I am proposing is that these drugs should be scrutinized and tested so that one day, if the evidence has shown them to be effective, a patient who has been unresponsive to all other treatments might have the chance to find relief with these drugs.

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