Timothy Leary Was Right:
Across history, many people have turned to psychoactive substances for a variety of reasons; many times to effect a deeper change instead of just a temporary high.
Among that list of “shamanistic” drugs like Salvia, Psilocybin, Ayahuasca and DMT, LSD has always been the good-old standby.
Now SCIENCE! is discovering it’s not just for stoners & dropouts. LSD and its siblings may actually rewire the brain and in the process, also fix some other problems.
And a recent brain-imaging study by The Imperial College of London is showing us how…
But first, The Depressed and The Savant:
One of the most interesting applications of psychoactives like LSD and the Psilocybin of “Magic Mushrooms” is in curing mental disorders like the ones suffered by about 15 Million people just in the US: Anxiety and Depression.
And strangely-enough, one of the first and most popular drugs, Lithium, has been said to help cure depression in a way that will become relevant a little later: It helps the brain form new pathways.
Another Strange Example, The Savant:
In many cases, a savant is like a superhero.
Painful origin story results in massive powers. In many cases, these are people who suffer from either brain-abnormalities that are congenital, or brain injuries that happen when they are adults.
In response to those insults, the brain Wildly overcompensates, recruiting all kinds of different regions in to help fill the gap in the most breathtaking examples of neuroplasticity we have.
The original “Rain Man”, Kim Peek was born with parts of his brain missing, but was otherwise an incredible encyclopedia of facts and memory.
Other people have suffered injuries and awoken to prodigy-level abilities in areas they never even studied, like painting or classical piano.
Well, Psychoactives Might Be The “Rain Man” Of The Drug World:
Moreover, because of how they act, they might address one of the key markers of the aforementioned Anxiety & Depression.
Just like in the experiments with Alcohol that showed drinkers were more creative than sober people, because enough alcohol shuts down the brain’s “Everything Must Make Logical Sense Traffic-Cop”.
Psychoactives do a very similar thing for Depressed people.
In Depression, something called the “Default Mode Network” is not just on like the Logical Traffic Cop.
It is usually Hyperactive, and sometimes in a similar region.
And now what the studiers found.
LSD Basically Flips Your Brain Inside-Out, In A Good Way:
The researchers found, with the help of LSD’s long “Trip”-length, in several tests using fMRIs and MEGs that:
1) There is noticeably-reduced activity in the “Default Mode Network”
2) Most of the carefully-siloed brain regions that normally take care of very specific things at very specific times all start talking at once, and all to eachother in a free, unconstrained and “childlike” manner.
3) The lowered-activity and synchronization of the “Default Mode Network” led to an inversion of self. That one was less an individual, and more a part of a universal whole.
4) As you would expect, of all the brain’s regions, activity was the highest in the visual cortex, and it seemed to become more of the brain’s unofficial “Traffic Cop”.
5) Music somehow enhances the whole experience and appears to be also interpreted visually.
6) And Another thing you might have guessed, the experience seemed linked to positive effects on mental well-being even after the experiments were over.
A Vacation With A Great Souvenir:
So it would seem that psychoactives let you “Take a vacation from yourself” in some ways, and also give you an interesting new souvenir to keep when you come back.
You get some new pathways that can help you offramp from that potentially-hyperactive Default-Mode Network and the medial PFC’s Logic Traffic Cop.
So you end up feeling better, thinking differently, and potentially being more creative.
And since they’ve demonstrated that at-least ego-loss can be experienced without hallucinations, now all the researchers need to do is create something that can replicate all of the benefits with none of the side-effects.
Maybe Steve Jobs was right about Bill Gates needing to drop a little acid, after all?
Check out all the groovy psychedelic details at the Links:
Photo Credits: “kele”, by Mike Monaghan
• Source: IC-Lodon
• via: Engadget
• More Coverage: Nature | Reuters | Nature-Benefits of ‘magic mushroom’ therapy long lasting
• Source Study: PNAS-Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging