Hey, Man: Taking LSD Makes Your Brain Achieve a Pure ‘Zen’ State (Says Research)
You meditate, try to live in the present, and listen to what your body needs. But you still feel out of sync with the universe. Well, worry not—there may be a drug that could help you become one with the universe… or, at the very least, make you feel like you are.
Sure, you’ve probably heard various people over the years—musicians, artists, your “cool” uncle—talk about how taking LSD, the psychedelic drug most famous for its use among hippies and beatniks in the 1960s, made them feel like they had a profound, deep connection with the world. Well, it turns out all these folks aren’t full of it.
A study published in the journal Current Biology reports that changes in brain connectivity may be why some people feel that the boundaries between a person and the rest of the world seem to all but disappear when under the influence of LSD.
“Scientists gave 15 volunteers either a drop of acid or a placebo and slid them into an MRI scanner to monitor brain activity,” NPR reports.
“After about an hour, when the high begins peaking, the brains of people on acid looked markedly different than those on the placebo. For those on LSD, activity in certain areas of their brain, particularly areas rich in neurons associated with serotonin, ramped up. Their sensory cortices, which process sensations like sight and touch, became far more connected than usual to the frontal parietal network, which is involved with our sense of self.”
Basically, your brain gets incredibly confused because it’s trying to process a flood of information from the LSD. This can cause the brain to “think” that you and, say, whatever you are eating are, in fact, one, rather than separate.
Enzo Tagliazucchi, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, said the feeling is similar to synesthesia.
“In synesthesia, you mix up sensory modalities. You can feel the color of a sound or smell the sound. This happens in LSD, too,” Tagliazucchi says. “And ego dissolution is a form of synesthesia, but it’s a synesthesia of areas of brain with consciousness of self and the external environment. You lose track of which is which.”
And in another study that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which was also spearheaded by Tagliazucchi, researchers discovered that the drug can weaken the brain’s alpha rhythm—this change could make “hallucinations seem more real,” NPR reports.
All of this research is in its preliminary stages, but some scientists, including Dr. Charles Grob, a psychiatrist at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, thinks the work is promising so far. “They may genuinely be on to something,” Grob says. “This should really further our understanding of the brain and consciousness.”
“Hallucinogens are a catalyst,” he adds. “In well-prepared subjects, you might elicit powerful, altered states of consciousness. [That] has been predicative of positive therapeutic outcomes.”
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