MRI Technology May Open New Insights Into How LSD Can Be Used Therapeutically
“Psychic Opening:” New Study Unlocks Brain’s Secrets Using MRI Technology–And LSD
if you’ve ever seen the move version of “Woodstock,” you probably remember the wildly gyrating hippies throwing themselves about in the mud, the sagging and drooping tents, the garbage strewn across Yasger’s farm in the aftermath.
What you may or may not remember is the announcement about the brown acid. “Don’t take the brown acid. The brown acid that’s circulating around isn’t too good…”
And anyone who has ever experienced a “bad trip” can assure you that it “isn’t too good.”
But a new study is showing promise in using LSD in concert with MRI scanning technology to map the effects LSD has on the brain. One effect researchers have observed is that test subjects on LSD when placed in a magnetic resonance imaging machine show what they are terming “increased global connectivity,” or an enhanced ability to separate themselves from their ego and their sense of self.
“There is a network of the brain which ‘lights up’ when we perform introspection, when we think deeply about ourselves,” said Dr. Enzo Tagliazucchi, the study’s lead author and researcher at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. “And there is another network that ‘lights up’ when we perceive the external world through our senses.”
And when subjects were dosed with LSD, these two networks became more connected, showing synchronized activity.
As a result, Tagliazucchi suggests that “…it is no longer reasonable to consider them two separate networks, but that they are joined together into a single network that does the same over time.”
Studies of the effects of LSD on the brain have been ongoing pretty much since day one, almost literally. In 1938, the inventor of LSD, Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman, accidentally ingested some of the compound he created trying to make a respiratotry drug. He recorded his vivid experiences in journal–after an assistant had taken him home–which he described as “a psychic loosening or opening.”
And while studies of LSD and its effects on the brain have continued ever since, the Netherlands study is the first time subjects’ brains have been examined in an MRI while on LSD.
The results Dr. Tagliazucchi observed in the subjects correlate amazingly closely with Dr. Hoffman’s from all those years ago:
“The increases in connectivity correlated with subjective reports of ego-dissolution,” Tagliazucchi said. “The stronger the intensity of ego-dissolution experienced by the participants, the stronger the increase in connectivity.”
So while it is still probably best to avoid the brown acid, maybe this much maligned, much mystified drug will provide some insight into the way the human mind works. Maybe there is some future in which we can synthesize a more global connection between ourselves and the rest of humanity, the rest of the planet, the rest of the universe even.
Looking objectively at our current troubles, one cannot help but think that a stronger sense of empathy and letting go of ego would be a good thing for us as a species, if we hope to survive.
Here is the abstract of the actual study. In places it is a bit jargony for a layperson, but there are some fascinating tidbits embedded within too: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822%2816%2930062-8