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MRI shows exactly what happens to your brain when you take LSD

Published Apr 12th, 2016 3:48PM EDT

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Many people who have tried lysergic acid diethylamide — better known as LSD — have reported a sensation called “ego death” in which they no longer feel like an individual but part of a greater fabric. It turns out, there’s a scientific explanation for why this happens.

Reuters directs our attention to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal that describes what happened when scientists at Imperial College London scanned the brains of people who had just taken LSD. In short, it looks like LSD breaks down your brain’s ability to compartmentalize and brings you to a state of mind that’s similar to being a baby.

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“In many ways, the brain in the LSD state resembles the state our brains were in when we were infants: free and unconstrained,” explains researcher and study leader Robin Cahart-Harris. “This also makes sense when we consider the hyper-emotional and imaginative nature of an infant’s mind.”

The researchers found that taking acid decreases connectivity between the parahippocampus and retrosplenial cortex (RSC), and thus inhibits the brain’s ability to see itself as a distinct entity. So if you drop acid and you feel yourself become one with the universe, that’s because the drug is breaking down boundaries that have been established between your brain’s networks.

Interestingly, the study also found that parts of the brain other than the visual cortex were used for visual processing when subjects were on LSD, which could definitely explain the wild hallucinations that people have when they’re on the drug.

You can check out the whole study for yourself at this link.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.