LSD could help treat psychological disorders

LSD (Getty)
LSD (Getty)

A study into the effect of LSD on the brain has revealed the drug's potential to help treat people with psychological disorders.

The drug, also known as acid, affects the brain differently to other psychoactive substances.

"LSD produces profound, sometimes life-changing experiences in microgram doses, making it a particularly powerful scientific tool," says Dr Suresh Muthukumaraswamy, of the University of Auckland's School of Pharmacy.

"In the decades that followed its discovery, the magnitude of its effect on science, the arts and society was unprecedented," he says.

The growing popularity of LSD amongst musicians especially led to big changes in popular music, with bands such as the Beatles dramatically changing their music and image under the influence.

In this study, researchers used cutting-edge techniques to scan the brains of people who had taken LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), in the first modern neuroimaging study of the drug.

"The results revealed marked changes in brain blood flow, electrical activity and network communication patterns that correlated strongly with the drug's hallucinatory and other consciousness-altering properties," Dr Muthukumaraswamy says.

LSD could help treat psychological disorders

"These results have implications for the neurobiology of consciousness and for potential applications of LSD in psychological research."

"Things in the brain that you do every day, looking, seeing, thinking, they all tend to happen so automatically that we don't even think about it, and when we actually change the state we can actually start to understand how it is that those automatic processes actually happen," he says.

"These results contribute important new insights into the characteristic hallucinatory and consciousness-altering properties of psychedelics that inform on how they can model certain pathological states and potentially treat others."

Dr Muthukumaraswamy says the group in the UK are continuing researching and finding some promising results.

"They've actually been doing a study on depression with psilocybin which is the active compound in magic mushrooms," he says. 

The study is published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.