The Beckley/Imperial Research Programme has released the world’s first images of the human brain on LSD. Amanda Feilding and David Nutt, the co-directors of the Programme, will host a symposium on Wednesday 13 April in celebration of this unprecedented scientific achievement. Through the publication of this paper, Amanda honours a promise she made to Albert Hofmann; a dear friend and the creator of LSD;* to champion the investigation of his “problem child” and to bring about a study involving human subjects.
The images are part of the first ever brain imaging study to examine the effects of LSD on the human brain. The findings have been published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “Neural Correlates of the LSD Experience Revealed by Multi-Modal Neuroimaging by Carhart-Harris R, Feilding A, Nutt D et al,” representing the overturning of a 50-year ban on research into LSD.
These first findings from the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme give invaluable insight into how LSD may be used, firstly to help treat some of society’s most intractable illnesses, such as depression, addiction and OCD, and secondly, to further our understanding of the nature of consciousness itself.
The findings illustrate the principles of psychedelic action, i.e., the destabilisation and disintegration of normally well-organised independent brain networks, accompanied by reduced segregation between brain networks, resulting in much greater connectivity and communication between the different networks. Altered activity and communication patterns involving high-level brain networks correlates with experiencing fundamental changes in consciousness, such as ego-dissolution, altered meaning and a more fluid state of consciousness. In addition, our results provide invaluable insight into how LSD changes how the visual system functions and gives a scientific basis for the common psychedelic experience of ‘seeing with the eyes shut’.
In addition to introducing our newly-published flagship paper, the evening will also feature presentations on a selection of the other studies that have arisen from our investigation into LSD:
“LSD modulates music-induced imagery via changes in parahippocampal connectivity.” Kaelen M, Roseman L, Kahan J, Ribeiros AS, Orban C, Lorenz R, Barrett F, Bolstridge M, Williams T, Wall M, McGonigle J, Leech R, Feilding A, Muthukumaraswamy S, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris R. European Neuropsychopharmacology (in press)
“Increased global cross-talk in the brain correlates with reports of ego-dissolution under LSD.” Tagliazucchi E, Roseman L, Kaelen M, Orban C, Muthukumraswamy S, Murphy K, Laufs H, Crossley N, Bullmore E, Williams T, Bolstridge M, Feilding A, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris R. Current Biology (in press)
“LSD alters eyes-closed functional connectivity within the early visual cortex in a retinotopic fashion.” Roseman L, Sereno MI, Leech R, Kaelen M, Orban C, McGonigle J, Feilding A, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris R. Human Brain Mapping (in press)
* Albert Hofmann was also a Scientific Advisor to the Beckley Foundation.