LSD and other psychedelics are known to have ‘trippy’ effects on people. Unless you’re taking the drugs, there’s no way to really see or experience what’s going on.
For the first time ever, researchers have managed to capture images of how LSD affects the human brain, showing how the drug alters brain activity.
Scientists from Imperial College London in the U.K. had 20 healthy volunteers (where do you sign up for this stuff, anyway?) take LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) and a placebo. From there, the experts scanned the brains to see what LSD was doing to their noggins while they experienced visual, dreamlike hallucinations.
Not only were images of the trips captured, but the researchers also discovered a difference in the brain’s functioning under LSD compared with the placebo.
Typically, the information that’s sent to our eyes goes through the visual cortex, and from there manufactures our sight. When LSD was added to the mix, several additional parts of the brain started getting involved in the visual process.
Lead researcher Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris said the volunteers were “seeing with their eyes shut.”
“Albeit they were seeing things from their imagination rather than from the outside world,” he said in a statement. “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.”
The researchers also found that the brain became more unified and integrated while on LSD. The brain usually functions through independent networks that are each responsible for a very specific purpose. That includes basic functions like vision, movement, and hearing. LSD broke those separated networks down, unifying them.
Additionally, the brain becomes more compartmentalized as people get older, making the mind more focused and rigid in their thinking. LSD makes the mind more like an infant’s: free and uninhibited.
“This also makes sense when we consider the hyper-emotional and imaginative nature of an infant’s mind,” he said.
The author’s of the study say their research is an “important advance in scientific research with psychedelic drugs at a time of growing interest in their scientific and therapeutic value.”