LSD really does open your mind: Psychedelic drugs ‘rewind’ brain functions making it easier to ‘unlearn normal perception’, new study finds
- A group of researchers at Cornell University found that psychedelics like LSD can break down the barriers of the brain that shape the way we perceive reality
- The brain takes information and and filters it based on our past experiences, but psychedelics can weaken the influence of those prior beliefs
- This allows the different parts of the brain to better communicate with each other in a way they haven’t since we were children
A new study from Cornell University shows that psychedelics like LSD can break down the barriers of the brain that shape the way we perceive reality, effectively rewinding it to a time before we had a certain understanding of the world.
In their study, the researchers discovered that the drug could allow the brain to flow more freely and not be constrained by prior assumptions of how the world works.
‘Normally, our thoughts and incoming information are filtered by our prior experiences,’ Parker Singleton, a PhD candidate at Cornell, told The Guardian.
‘But if you take the filtering and suppression away, you are looking at the world with new eyes,’ he said. ‘You get a totally new perspective.’
A young man took LSD, which researchers at Cornell University discovered can lower the barriers that shape the way we perceive the world
A 2016 study by Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, from Imperial College London, scanned volunteers brains to show how they were activated on LSD. This image shows active parts of the brain when a person is high on LSD
A total of 20 participants received either an injection of LSD or a ‘dummy’ placebo drug before having their brains scanned. These scans show the brain activity of volunteers on the placebo drug
Placebo (left) vs LSD (right). In effect, they said, drugs like LSD can ‘rewind the brain’s clock’ to a time before we learned learned that walls tend not to move and furniture is rarely threatening,’ The Guardian reports
The brain takes thoughts and information from the senses and shapes them according to its understanding of the world, the researchers explained, but psychedelics can weaken the influence of prior beliefs that the brain uses to make sense of the world.
In effect, they said, drugs like LSD can ‘rewind the brain’s clock’ to a time before we learned learned that walls tend not to move and furniture is rarely threatening,’ The Guardian reports.
‘If your prior belief is that walls don’t move and your prior belief melts, then that wall may appear to move,’ Amy Kuceyeski, the senior author of the study, said.
They analyzed brain scans of people on a placebo versus those on LSD, looking at the four different patterns of activity that the brain switched between when the volunteers resisted the scanner.
A group of partygoers who were likely high on LSD at the Merry Pranksters’ Acid Test Graduation in the 1960s in which Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, invited people to try LSD and ‘graduate’ into what they considered a higher order of thinking
They found that those on LSD spent less time on higher-level processing and more time focusing on the sensory-driven activities.
Additionally, the researchers found, the drug reduced the amount of energy the brain needed to switch from one brain state to another and targeted a specific receptor that leveled the brain’s landscape, tearing down the walls that affect perception, and allowing different parts of the brain to communicate.
‘Under psychedelics you could go back to a state where bits of the brain that haven’t spoken since you were a baby can cross-talk,’ said David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College in London, ‘and that allows people to get new insights into old problems.’
HOW LSD AFFECTS THE BRAIN
A 2016 study revealed that people experiencing drug-induced hallucinations ‘see’ with many parts of the brain, not just the visual cortex that normally processes information from our eyes.
LSD also had the effect of breaking down the barriers separating brain networks that perform functions such as vision, movement and hearing so that they form a more holistic state.
This may underlie religious or spiritual feelings of ‘connectedness’ often reported by users of the drug, the scientists believe.
Other results showed that music can have a strange effect on the brain’s visual system under the influence of LSD.
It caused the visual cortex to receive information from a brain region called the parahippocampus which is associated with mental images and personal memory.
The more the parahippocampus communicated with the visual cortex, the more people reported experiencing complex visions, such as scenes from their lives.