Effects of LSD on human brain
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a hallucinogenic drug that is commonly sold in the form of tablets, capsules or solution. The compound causes an array of short- and long-term defects by altering the normal functioning of neural circuits in the brain.
For the first time, a recent study by the Imperial College London, United Kingdom, revealed the effects of LSD on the human brain. Researchers performed a series of experiments to show that the psychedelic compound creates havoc in the normal brain activity, ultimately leading to hallucinations.
As part of the study, the researchers administered LSD to 20 healthy participants and visualized how it brings the brain to a standstill, a state in which an addict is unable to dissociate various types of feelings due to an altered state of consciousness. The scientists used a range of state-of-the-art scanning techniques for the study.
Brain and LSD
According to the researchers, visual processing in a normal human takes place when the information received by the eyes is processed in a specific region of the brain, known as visual cortex. In the latest study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2016, the scientists focused on how LSD affected brain visual information. It was observed that when the participants were fed with LSD, additional brain areas, apart from the visual cortex, also took part in the process of vision formation.
For long, it has been known that LSD has the potential to alter the quality of consciousness in people, but for the first time, the study revealed the actual brain changes that lead to this altered consciousness.
Lead researcher Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris from the Department of Medicine at Imperial said that under normal circumstances the intricate network of circuits in the brain are responsible for distinct functions, including mobility and balance, hearing and vision, but under the spell of LSD, all these functions don’t remain distinct anymore, or rather they transform into a unified brain activity.
According to Dr. Carhart-Harris, “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. 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.”
Association between LSD and music
Another study by the same team of scientists revealed that when a person under the hallucinogenic effects of LSD listens to the music, his brain undergoes apparent changes that are found to be linked with eyes-closed visions.
Published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, the study revealed that the effects of LSD, combined with music, cause the visual cortex region to receive abundant information from an area of the brain called the parahippocampus, which produces mental imagery and personal memory. The scientists observed that on occasions when parahippocampus communicated more with visual cortex, people were found to experience a higher degree of complex visions, such as visualizing scenes from their own lives.
In concomitance with the effects of LSD on the brain, the researchers said that such a compound may find applications in treating various psychiatric disorders, such as in depression or addiction.
Mendel Kaelen from the Department of Medicine at Imperial and lead author of the study said, “A major focus for future research is how we can use the knowledge gained from our current research to develop more effective therapeutic approaches for treatments such as depression; for example, music-listening and LSD may be a powerful therapeutic combination if provided in the right way.”
An individual is not born with the intention to abuse drugs as he grows up, but once he gets addicted, his ability to display self-control can be severely impaired with continued use. Brain imaging studies of those addicted to LSD or other drugs show various physical changes that take place in the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory. Precisely, these changes can bring about huge variations in the way the brain works.
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