New research led by neuropsychopharmacology professor David Nutt strongly suggests that LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide or “acid,” can offer serious therapeutic relief to the brain. This suggestion comes from the neuroscientists who have obtained the first-ever brain scans of people under the influence of LSD.

The psychedelic drug is believed to be the answer to treating a wide variety of ailments, ranging from psychiatric disorders like depression, addiction, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, to perhaps even asthma. This new study adds to existing evidence that psychoactive drugs could help reverse deeply-ingrained patterns of addictive or negative thinking. The drug even assisted depression in those with terminal illness.

According to Nutt, this experiment has been ongoing for the last 50 years, and was widely considered impossible due to prohibitive regulations on research into recreational drugs. Speaking at a briefing in London, the government’s former chief drugs adviser, said these restrictions amounted to “the worst censorship in the history of science…These drugs offer the greatest opportunity we have in mental health.” He equated the current barriers to research to the Catholic church’s censorship of Galileo’s work in 1616.

After failing to secure conventional funding, the team turned to crowdfunding. With the help of donations from all over the world, dedicated professionals, and a focus group of 20 volunteers, Nutt was able to document the effects of LSD for the first time ever using three different brain imaging techniques: arterial spin labelling, resting state MRI, and magnetoencephalography. The volunteer subjects received an injection of 75 micrograms (a moderate dose) of LSD on one day, and a placebo on another. The images below show the brain beautifully lit up by the stimulation of the drug.


Scientists saw that visual processing was no longer restricted to the visual cortex, enabling volunteers to “see with their eyes closed.” Regions that typically don’t communicate began forming connections, and areas of the brain that typically signal each other became segregated. Nutt’s colleague, Robin Carhart-Harris, summarized the results:

“Normally our brain consists of independent networks that perform separate specialized functions, such as vision, movement and hearing – as well as more complex things like attention. However, under LSD the separateness of these networks breaks down and instead you see a more integrated or unified brain.”