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LSD Can Alter Consciousness by Reorganizing Brain Networks

Update Date: Dec 14, 2015 02:30 PM EST
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Taking LSD can lead to profound changes in human consciousness, including "ego-dissolution". Yet, how these pharmacological effects can leave so much of an impact on consciousness seems to be getting clearer due to new studies.

Researchers probed "sequential brain scans" of 20 volunteers over six hours. They employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), helping to map brain activity by finding out the changes in blood flow, as well as magnetoencephalography (MEG), reports scienceworldreport.

Scientists found that LSD led to a confused brain state, akin to the "prodromal phase of psychosis". Hence, neurons designed to fire together inside a network simply "fell out of synchrony", even as distinct networks began to "overlap in their connectivity patterns".

More blood flow in the visual cortex probably led to the hallucinations and distortions that are reported among LSD patients. Changes in the natural brain oscillations, with a reduction in the alpha waves, got correlated to visual hallucinations. Hence, due to LSD, the mental imbalance was more about the inner rather than the outer world.

"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 Robin Carhart-Harris, one of the researchers, in a news release.

The study was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

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