How LSD Use Impacts View of Self
Psychedelic substances are known to reduce, and in some cases, erase and individual’s sense of self. It’s like the boundary between the individual using the drug and the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
LSD is a psychedelic substance that can lead to a ‘loss of self’. This is a phenomenon known as Ego Dissolution, according to scientists who conducted studies using functional magnetic resonance images to investigate what happens in the brain when the drug is used. This is the first time that a study on the impact of LSD on brain function was conducted.
Changes in the Brain
Studies conducted in the Netherlands scanned the brains of 15 healthy people after they had taken LSD. The results were compared to people in a control group. The fMRI images of the brains of the people who had taken the drug revealed enhanced connectivity in many higher levels of the brain. Higher level regions are the ones that deal with association, while lower level functioning deals with the senses. The study also showed increased communication between brain networks that are normally separate thus resulting in greater brain connectivity.
The higher the level of connectivity found in the individual’s brain, the more that individual reported a sense of ego dissolution. The fMRI images suggested that ego dissolution takes place as regions of the brain become heavily over connected.
The researchers observed increased global connectivity in the frontoparietal cortex, which is a part of the brain involved in self-consciousness, and also between this portion and the sensory areas. These are the parts that receive information about the world around the individual and convey it to other brain areas for further processing.
It is speculated that increased communication between high and low level brain regions could represent a collapse in the normal hierarchical organization of the brain. This could lead to a blurring of the boundaries between lower-level systems, which are anchored to the outside world, and higher-level systems, which operate apart from sensory information.
In other words, as LSD strengthens the process of information-sharing between regions, the link between one’s sense of self and the sense of the environment becomes stronger, potentially diluting the boundaries of individuality.
Psychedelic Drugs and Understanding Addiction and Depression?
Is there a role for psychedelic drugs within controlled research settings? The study conducted could pave the way for LSD or related chemicals to be used to treat psychiatric disorders. The drug could pull the brain out of thought patterns seen in depression and addiction through its effects on brain networks.
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