This Is Your Brain on LSD, in One Incredible Chart
New images reveal what your brain looks like on LSD, and they're totally friggin' trippy.
It isn't a secret that an artistic renaissance rode into American culture on the back of psychedelics. But we've never really understood how LSD affects the brain.
These images — brain scans from a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — show LSD's effects on a chemical and physiological level.
To produce them, Dr. David Nutt, lead on the study and professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, got 20 people doped up. He tracked the participants' experience on the drug — how many universes they peered into and felt "one" with, for example — but that wasn't the interesting part.
Using three kinds of neural imaging — arterial spin labeling, resting state MRI and magnetoencephalography — Nutt's team found changes in brain blood flow, increased electrical activity and a big communication spike in the parts of your brain that handle vision, motion, hearing and awareness. The researchers said the results looked like a "more unified brain."
On an aesthetic level, LSD makes your brain light up like a gray-matter Christmas tree.
Because of all of those hallucinatory and consciousness-altering effects, Nutt's study may be the most promising example of how LSD could change neurobiology research.
"This is to neuroscience what the Higgs boson was to particle physics," he said, according to 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."
This study proves all of those artists of the '60s and '70s were on to something. LSD literally taps into parts of your brain that don't usually get a say in how you perceive the world around you. LSD doesn't just help you make cooler music and art. It could also teach you more about how your brain works, and, if research like this continues, it could become one of the most revealing psychological tools in the future of medicine. The Beatles would be proud.