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For the first time ever, researchers are getting a closer look at the effect LSD has on brain chemistry


(NaturalNews) LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, has been the subject of hundreds of studies over the years, with some researchers believing that the drug could provide insights into the way the mind works and inspire new treatments. While the drug got a lot of negative attention in the 1960s and '70s, its effects are being studied with renewed vigor thanks to modern equipment.

The effects of LSD on the human brain have been visualized for the first time thanks to a group of scientists from Imperial College London. In a series of experiments carried out with the help of the Beckley Foundation, researchers gave 75 micrograms of the drug to a group of 20 healthy volunteers via injection. The experiment used high-tech brain scanning techniques such as MEG and fMRI in order to show the ways in which LSD alters the brain's functioning, blood flow and electrical activity. Their findings appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For many people, the drug LSD is strongly associated with the complex hallucinations its users often experience. It turns out that the drug seems to activate additional areas of the brain. When people are not under the influence of any drugs and acting normally, the information from their eyes is processed in the brain's visual cortex, which is situated at the back of the head. This is also true while taking LSD, but many other areas of the brain also played a role in visual processing for those who were under its influence.

One of the researchers, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, likened this to seeing with your eyes closed. He noted that the participants seemed to see images from their imagination instead of from the actual world around them. This effect was stronger as volunteers reported more complex and dreamlike visions, even though their eyes were actually closed.

Mimics the brain of a baby

Interestingly, he said that LSD seemed to blend the independent networks that normally carry out specialized functions like hearing, movement and vision, making what he referred to as "a more integrated or unified brain."

As we grow, our brains evolve from their simplistic infant state and become more compartmentalized over time. The LSD state brings our brains back to the unconstrained and free way they were when we were infants.

"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," he said.

They also discovered that the combination of music and LSD activated the parahippocampus and led to complex visions.

Could LSD be used therapeutically?

Professor David Nutt said that science has been waiting 50 years for this moment. He said that the information could actually be used to help patients overcome psychiatric conditions like depression one day.

LSD has long been known to help treat alcoholism; even the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, used the drug for this purpose. Researchers found that LSD had a "significant beneficial effect" on alcohol abuse which compared favorably with FDA-approved drugs used to treat the condition. Even more surprisingly, just one single dose had a lasting effect on recurrence of alcoholism. Many of the patients said it gave them significant insights into problems and cemented their resolve to transform their lives. It is also believed to help with cluster headaches.

It is worth noting that people respond to the drug in different ways, and researchers believe that there could be a genetic basis to LSD sensitivity. The road to creating new treatments based on this information could be a long one; it's hard to perform a true double-blind study, as it can be pretty obvious to participants and researchers alike which participants have taken LSD and which have been given a placebo. In addition, people with mental health problems can experience serous long-term effects from taking LSD.

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