Why LSD causes hallucinations, scientists may have an answer

By @ritwikroy1985 on
LSD
Rudy Eugene (L) and Ronald Poppo are seen in this combination of undated handout photos released by the Miami-Dade Police Department May 30, 2012. Eugene was fatally shot by police after he refused to stop gnawing on Poppo's face and may have been under the influence of a new form of the 1960s hallucinatory drug LSD, a top police officer said on Wednesday. Reuters/Miami-Dade Police Department/Handout

Scientists and researchers, for a long time, have tried to understand how lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as LSD, affects the human brain, how it changes consciousness and how the drug even causes ego-dissolution. All this while the researchers were perplexed as to how pharmacological effects of LSD resulted in such reflective effects on human consciousness even after having detailed knowledge of LSD effects on serotonin receptors. Finally, they may have seen some light at the end of the tunnel.

In the latest study, presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Hollywood, Fla. annual conference, researchers pointed out the fact that LSD affects the extent in Sswhich neurons within a network can fire simultaneously. It basically means the drug reduces connectivity within brain networks. Taking brain networks and firing synchronization into account, LSD reduced the separate brain networks’ ability to remain unique, reports Medical Daily.

The team of scientists at Imperial College in London and led by Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to carry out six hours of sequential brain scanning of 20 healthy volunteers. This was done to map the volunteers’ brain activity through magnetoencephalography (MEG) and to detect changes in blood flow. MEG was useful in recording the magnetic fields being produced by the electrical currents in the brain.

According to Science World Report, the researchers discovered that taking LSD led to a chaotic brain state. The state is quite similar to the prodromal phase of psychosis. The neurons that would have fired together under normal circumstances fell out of synchronization. Moreover, it was also observed that distinct networks too lost their uniqueness and produced overlapping patterns of connectivity.

“With better assessment tools available today than in the 1950s and 1960s, it may be possible to evaluate potential uses of LSD as a treatment for addiction and other disorders, such as treatment-resistant depression-which we are currently investigating with a similar drug to LSD,” said Dr. Carhart-Harris in the report that was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

LSD causes reality distortions and hallucinations. The team of researchers believe that the explanation for this is blood flow to the back of the brain inside the visual cortex.

Read how Silicon Valley thinkers are turning more productive and coming up with new ideas.

There is a decrease in the alpha waves throughout the brain and a change in brain oscillations. This was shown by the MEG. There is definitely a correlation between these changes and the visual hallucinations as a result of LSD. The drug is more associated with the internal world than the external.

Thus, LSD might be able to provide a helpful human psychosis model.

Contact the writer of this story at feedback@ibtimes.com.au or let us know what you think below.