New Study Is The First Ever To Map The Human Brain On LSD

by Luke Sumpter

on March 6, 2015

Psychedelics have been subject to an array of stigma and hysteria over the course of recent decades; the War on Drugs has sought to destroy the reputation of many compounds and plants, classifying them as dangerous and severely restricting their scientific research. Self-experimentation has been made illegal and one-sided science, along with an enormous propaganda effort, have portrayed them as mania-inducing, ambition-annihilating tools of escapism.

The 21st century is witnessing somewhat of a reformation in this area. Empirical science is providing the catalyst that is enabling psychedelics to shed the cocoon of scrutiny and judgment, and to reemerge as a respected and revered tool of consciousness expansion and therapeutic healing.

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is one such compound. Heavily controlled, it is classified as a Schedule I drug in the U.S., and a Class A substance in the UK. Mere possession of the psychedelic can lead to a long stint in prison. For these reasons, academics interested in studying LSD run the risk of being ostracized by their peers, and as a result there have been no studies involving LSD in the UK for over 50 years, as the Irish Examiner pointed out.

However, the five decade long scientific blockade has recently started to crumble at the hands of a trio of courageous researchers consisting of Amanda Fielding, founder of independent research organization The Beckley Foundation; Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London; and Professor David Nutt, also of Imperial College and formerly the UK government’s adviser on drugs.

The team completed a previous study showing how psilocybin effects the human brain by decreasing blood flow to the medial prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that is hyperactive in individuals with depression. Now they have successfully left a mark on history by conducting the world’s first ever visual mapping of the brain under the influence of LSD.The study was conducted at Cardiff University in Wales. Twenty volunteers, 15 males and 5 females, were administered a dose of 75 micro-grams of LSD. Upon administration, LSD produces physical effects such as dilated pupils, increased body temperature and increased blood pressure. Beyond the superficial reactions of the body, LSD takes the mind on a visionary voyage; a phenomenon that science hardly understands, and one that this study sought to learn more about.Whilst under the influence of LSD, volunteers had their cognitive activity mapped and analyzed using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology. As reported by The Guardian Dr. Carhart-Harris said the dose “produced quite profound effects” in terms of both cognitive activity and the mental and emotional states of the group of volunteers. The results from the study were said to be “very promising” and contributed to a catalog of growing evidence that psychoactive compounds may have the potential to aid those suffering from negative thought patterns, damaging addictive behavior and even depression.

Although positive progress has been made, brain mapping is only the start to the ongoing analysis that the researchers hope to conduct. The next steps for the study will involve analyzing the scans in detail which will require a total of £25,000. However, without conventional financial backing, the project aspires to earn this money through a crowd-funding effort via the website So far 500 backers have donated more than £17,000 within the space of 44 days.

The surfacing research is nothing short of paradigm shattering. This study is one that may very well be remembered for years to come for possibly contributing to the validity of LSD as a therapeutic agent, as opposed to a public health hazard. In the crowd funding video below, the research team express the magnitude of this study. Dr. Carhart-Harris expresses his excitement by exclaiming that his team and himself are “working in an area which is set to the next best thing in psychology and psychiatry.” Amanda Fielding highlights the paramount importance of how studying the brains reactivity to psychedelics may give scientists more clues into how our consciousness operates by exclaiming “inside the brain is the next great mystery, even more so than space.”

Written by Luke Sumpter.