BASEL, Switzerland — Could sending people who suffer from depression on a “trip” help relieve their symptoms?
Researchers from the University of Basel have uncovered in a new study that LSD — colloquially known as “acid” — can reduce negative emotions such as fear in the brain.
The study, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, found that the acid could be useful in treating anxiety or depression, according to a university news release. Recent studies have provided similar findings, concluding that hallucinogens may be an effective treatment of certain mental disorders.
Scientists used MRIs to measure the brain activities of 20 healthy participants who were given 100 micrograms of LSD and then shown images of faces portraying different emotional states, such as joy, anger or fear.
Professor Stefan Borgwardt, a clinical psychiatrist and neuroscientist in the university’s Department of Psychiatry, “and his team showed that the depiction of fear under LSD led to a notably lower level of activity in the amygdala – an area of the brain that is believed to be central to the processing of emotions,” the release states.
The researchers believe the finding demonstrates emotional changes following ingestion of the substance.
Afterwards, the researchers, along with clinical pharmacologists, further investigated to find out if the LSD experiences were associated with the amygdala. They found that the lower the LSD-inspired amygdala activity of a subject, the higher the subjective effect of the drug.
“This ‘de-frightening’ effect could be an important factor for positive therapeutic effects,” says Dr. Felix Müller, the lead author of the study. He expects future studies on the substance and its correlation to other conditions to continue.
The study was published online this week in the journal Translational Psychiatry.