Last updated March 20, 2018 at 2:54 pm
Swiss scientists have been making good use of LSD, the infamous recreational drug of the ‘60s.
A human brain imaging study at the University of Zurich has found that the drug of choice during the 60’s, LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide, can dissolve the ego because it changes the activity in brain regions involved in differentiating between the self and others.
This suggests a possible new approach for treating social impairments such as depression or schizophrenia.
The research team was investigating the role of the serotonin 2A receptor in social interaction, which is impaired in several psychiatric disorders.
They gave experimental subjects either LSD, ketanserin – a drug that blocks LSD – or a placebo before asking them to play a game where they either followed the gaze of a virtual character or the virtual character followed their gaze.
Those on LSD struggled to do so, and by combining functional magnetic resonance imaging and eye-tracking, the researchers found that LSD interfered with participants’ ability to coordinate attention with the virtual character on a particular object on the screen.
During this social task, LSD reduced activity in the posterior cingulate cortex and the temporal cortex, brain areas important for establishing one’s sense of self, and appeared to blur the line between the experimental conditions where either the participant or the virtual character took the lead in directing attention.
These effects were blocked by ketanserin, indicating that this receptor system may be a target for treating social impairments in disorders that involve an increased self-focus, as in depression, or loss of the sense of self, as in schizophrenia.
The paper published in Journal of Neuroscience.