It's associated with wild hallucinations and it's one of the most powerful drugs out there, but few studies have delved into the medical effects of LSD since it was banned in the 1960s. Until now: new research conducted by the Imperial College London reveals that under the influence of LSD, regions of the brain that are usually separate start communicating with each other, while others that are normally linked become separated.
For the purposes of the study, 20 volunteers were injected with the psychedelic drug and their brains were scanned while they were high. The resulting images go some way to explaining why LSD induces hallucinations and how the brain makes those hallucinations happen, revealing that under the influence, people experienced imagery via information drawn from all over the brain, not just the visual cortex that usually processes visuals.
The scans also explain the feeling of oneness and 'ego dissolution' LSD users experience. "This is to neuroscience what the Higgs boson was to particle physics," David Nutt, Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London and senior researcher on the study, told The Guardian. "We didn't know how these profound effects were produced. It was too difficult to do. Scientists were either scared or couldn't be bothered to overcome the enormous hurdles to get this done."
The study's findings bring to light the potential of LSD to treat mental health conditions like depression and addiction, according to Professor Nutt.