The Effects of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) in our Brain through Imaging

For the first time, researchers have obtained images in real time showing what happens to the body when LSD is consumed.

UK – Since its discovery decades ago, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has gone through an interesting cycle of veneration, at first, followed by the persecution and absolute contempt.  However, although it is illegal in most countries, it has been continued to be used illegally in most cases.

A few years ago, researchers got their therapeutic use reconsidered.  Since then, studies on the effects of this drug have slowly increased. Recently, a study showed for the first time the effects of the LSD in the brain.  And the results are impressive.  With this research, LSD takes a small step to return to the era it was used as a therapeutic agent.


Twenty volunteers were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see the impressive effects of LSD in the brain. This psychotropic drug is known for its psychological effects including hallucinations, strong synesthesia, distorted perception of time and dissolution of the ego.  With fMRI, areas of the brain which are most active after taking LSD can be detected thanks to the blood flow.

The fMRI detected blood flow through vessels that supply the brain.  In this way areas that are “working” at all times and in real time can be analyzed.  For the effects of LSD in the brain, volunteers were observed during low inflows of the drug.  They are also conducted the same analysis with a placebo.  The differences were apparent in the analysis.

It is clear that the activity “gets out” causing stimuli and “false” answers that make us see what is not there in the presence of LSD in the brain i.e. the activity is triggered. Normally the brain acts in a “compartmentalized” manner.  Each circuit is responsible for your area and connects with the rest as needed.  Before the LSD, the brain seems flooded with signals.  Blood “boils” by all vessels, which seems to mean that the activity occurs everywhere.  This could explain many of the experienced LSD effects by consumers.

For example, synesthesia, which causes us to feel with the “wrong” direction (see the music, hear colors …), it could be explained by this amalgam of undifferentiated activity that triggers signals in areas that do not belong.  Another curious aspect is visual hallucinations. When volunteers closed their eyes and describe visions, the monitor also showed brain activity in areas associated with visual stimuli.  In short, without going into the exact molecular mechanism of LSD in the brain, which is seen clearly that when the activity “gets out” causing stimuli and “false” answers it makes us see what is not there and feel completely different.

The therapeutic LSD

LSD abuse during the sixties led to its ban in both health care and research. Over time, the promise of being a therapeutic agent capable of relieving the distress, pain and treat some particular disorders has led researchers to fight to restore its usefulness as a therapeutic agent such a recent study on its use to help treat alcoholism. It was not until 2005 that the United Kingdom began to seriously discuss its research use again.  In 2010 the first investigations carried out by the same team that conducted this study, directed by Robin Carhart-Harris and David Nutt , pointed to the functioning of LSD in various situations. Since then, the Imperial College of London has studied many aspects about LSD. This is the first time we get images of how it acts in the brain in real time.

What researchers want to achieve?  Above all, Robin Carhart-Harris and David Nutt seek to return the use of this drug. To achieve that, researchers need to know how it works, where it works and why it does allow us to address specific problems with sources of all kinds; psychological, physiological and molecular. To achieve this, they need to be able to legally investigate it.  So the road still has many hurdles to clear.  But who knows.  Perhaps we begin to see LSD in a different way. And all thanks to the work of researchers who have not surrendered to the prejudices and ignorance.

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