When British scientists turned to crowdfunding to raise money for research into LSD's effects on the brain, they had no idea they would get double the amount they asked for.
But that's exactly what happened, and the world's first real "Brain On LSD" study is now underway.
After raising over £53,000 or almost $80,000 on crowdfunding site Walacea – double the original goal of £25,000 – the team of scientists will scan brains under the effects of LSD for the first time ever. This sort of research hasn't been done before because of the drug's illegality, as well as the stigma that comes with its use.
LSD is one of the strongest psychoactive drugs ever created. The drug found use in the 1950s and 1960s for psychotherapy, but following the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, LSD was banned almost everywhere in the world. Regardless of its potential for treating mental illnesses, LSD's illegality has prevented sufficient research into its effects on the brain.
"Despite the incredible potential of this drug to further our understanding of the brain, political stigma has silenced research," said psychiatrist David Nutt, from Imperial College London.
The study has already begun, and the funds of the crowdfunding campaign will help complete the research. The study, co-authored by Nutt, Robin Carhart-Harris and Amanda Feilding gives volunteers LSD and then scans their brains with fMRI and MEG machines. This should show researchers where LSD affects the brain, as well as indicating how the drug could potentially be used to help those with mental illnesses.
"Understanding more about the physiological effects of LSD will help us shed light on potential medical interventions as well as help us learn more about consciousness," reads the description on the crowdfunding page. "In many respects how the brain works is still a mystery. By researching how psychedelics work, we will be a step closer to understanding how specific areas of the brain are affected to induce certain psychological effects."
The same research team conducted a recent study on psilocybin, the main ingredient in "magic mushrooms." Their work showed that psilocybin affects parts of the brain also affected by depression, OCD, Alzheimer's and autism. They expect that their findings with LSD will have similar results.
In 2014, another team of researchers conducted a small study on LSD and found the drug effective in decreasing anxiety.
Nutt and his colleagues hope to release the findings of their study later this year.
[Photo Credit: The Beckley Foundation | Walacea]