Drug and means for the treatment of mental disorders: How LSD affects the brain
Although LSD is far less popular today than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, the hallucinogenic drug is still widespread. For some time now, there has been evidence that the substance could be used not only as an intoxicant, but also to treat mental disorders. In a new study, researchers have now shown how LSD affects the brain.
Drug with surprising effects
Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD for short, is a hallucinogenic drug that was popular during the hippie era in the 1960s and 1970s, but is still widely used today. The intoxicant, which is usually dripped on a small piece of blotting paper, provides hours of trips that can be both pleasant and extremely negative. Scientists have been studying the surprising effects of LSD for decades. Researchers from Switzerland and the USA have now shown in a study how the drug influences the brain.
Communication between certain brain areas is increased
Researchers at the Universities of Zurich (UZH) and Yale in New Haven (USA) have used brain imaging to investigate how LSD affects the brains of healthy participants.
According to a UZH communication, communication between the brain areas involved in planning and decision making is reduced in states of consciousness altered by LSD.
At the same time, the intoxicant increases communication between brain areas responsible for sensory perception and movement.
Therapeutic effect of LSD
In addition, using patterns of brain activity, the scientists found that the communication patterns altered by LSD depend on the stimulation of a specific receptor in the brain, the serotonin A receptor.
“If we blocked this receptor with the substance ketanserin, LSD was no longer effective,” explained Katrin Preller, lead author of the study, which was published in the journal “eLIFE”.
In recent years, researchers have become increasingly interested in psychedelics for the treatment of mental disorders such as depression.
For example, scientific research has provided evidence that psychedelic drugs such as LSD can help with depression by stimulating the growth of new branches and connections between brain cells.
More targeted treatment of schizophrenia
Depressive patients suffer from a very depressed mood, often have an increased self-focus and reduced serotonin levels. Initial studies at the UZH have shown that psychedelics such as LSD can alleviate these symptoms.
On the other hand, sensory perception and thinking disorders caused by LSD are comparable to changes in thinking and perception in mental illnesses.
“Therefore, the new study results could have a direct impact on the treatment of psychotic symptoms such as schizophrenia,” said Franz Vollenweider, professor at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich.
Although drugs used to treat schizophrenia block a number of serotonin receptors, not all patients respond to treatment.
“Based on the activity patterns found here, clinicians could in the long term identify individual patients who are most likely to benefit from drugs with specific serotonin mechanisms,” said Katrin Preller of UZH and currently visiting professor at Yale University.