Neuroscience: This is Your Brain on LSD and It’s Actually Pretty Amazing
Aldous Huxley, the famous author of Brave New World had his wife inject him with LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) on his deathbed. The writer was dying from a three-year battle with cancer. He believed in dabbling with psychedelics as a way to expand the fences of awareness like opening the aperture of a camera lens. Controversial new scientific research explains how LSD not only leads many people to a spiritual path, but might also directly affect brain plasticity to make an expanded view of reality more possible, corroborating Huxley’s fascination with psychedelic drugs.
Through a UK study, scientists were finally able to see what happens to the brain on LSD. By studying brain images they were able to observe how one of the most powerful drugs ever created causes parts of the brain that normally work separately, start to work together. The work is so new that scientists say, “This, for human neuroscience, is the same as the discovery of the Higgs boson.” Even places in the brain that are often dormant were awakened by LSD.
David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London along with his colleague, Robin Carhart-Harris used three different brain imaging techniques – arterial spin labelling, resting state MRI, and magnetoencephalography – to figure out what was going on inside an LSD-affected brain given 75mcg of the drug.
Normally segregated portions of the brain, like the visual cortex at the back of the head, started communicating with other parts of the brain.
In other brain regions which usually form a network – they became more separated in a change that accompanied users’ feelings of oneness with the world, and a loss of personal identity called “ego dissolution”. Brain networks that deal with vision, attention, movement and hearing became far more connected while other networks completely broke down.
Volunteers in the study said, “they were seeing with their eyes shut.”
“We are finally unveiling the brain mechanisms underlying the potential of LSD, not only to heal, but also to deepen our understanding of consciousness itself,” said Amanda Feilding, director of the Beckley Foundation in the UK, which partly funded the study.
These effects could possibly explain why people experience an altered state of consciousness, along with a sense of the self-disintegrating and being replaced with a sense of oneness with others and nature.
“This experience is sometimes framed in a religious or spiritual way, and seems to be associated with improvements in wellbeing after the drug’s effects have subsided.”
“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.”
These findings are not without controversy, though. Those who are on a spiritual path do credit the drug with bringing people to a greater understanding of their own consciousness, but with a caveat. Some attest that drugs like LSD release certain spiritual samskaras, or impressions born of past spiritual actions, that were lying dormant within them, awaiting the opportunity to express themselves. Those impressions would have to come out sooner or later anyway.
This may be why some people report experiencing feelings of oneness and awe, while others have a ‘bad’ trip, and experience hallucinations that are quite terrifying.
Swami Sri Yukteswar counters that drugs can sometimes create a very subtle form of ego which attaches itself to the experiences that altered states offer – this can be said of those who meditate also, though, so perhaps the adage, ‘if you see the Buddha on the road, kill him’ holds true even for those who experience a profound sense of oneness while on LSD.
The point is that reality is an impermanent illusion, no matter how we arrive at that awareness.
Read more articles by Christina Sarich.
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a writer, musician, yogi, and humanitarian with an expansive repertoire. Her thousands of articles can be found all over the Internet, and her insights also appear in magazines as diverse as Weston A. Price, Nexus, Atlantis Rising, and the Cuyamungue Institute, among others. She was recently a featured author in the Journal, “Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and Healing Arts,” and her commentary on healing, ascension, and human potential inform a large body of the alternative news lexicon. She has been invited to appear on numerous radio shows, including Health Conspiracy Radio, Dr. Gregory Smith’s Show, and dozens more. The second edition of her book, Pharma Sutra, will be released soon.
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