Ongoing neuroscience research on psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin is increasingly demonstrating the healing potential of these substances. In the case of LSD, researchers note in a recent article in Scientific Reports, this healing comes from the drug’s ability to help patients’ brains “reset” connections that cause persistent mental health issues like depression, substance use disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For people who live with chronic mental illness, the opportunity to reset the brain could be life changing, note the authors.

“I am generally interested in novel therapeutic tools that can help with the healing of psychiatric disorders, especially healing from trauma,” said Selen Atasoy, Ph.D., the first author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Brain and Cognition at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona in an interview with PsyPost on Tuesday.

“I feel that as Western societies we generally tend to label and marginalise mental illness instead of seeing it as a rather normal reaction to extreme and abnormal circumstances.”

Atasoy and his colleagues used a technique called "connectome-harmonic decomposition" to measure how LSD affects the ways different areas of the brain work together. 

In the paper, Atasoy and his team used a unique brain imaging technique to investigate how LSD could help the human brain heal from mental illness. Recent research on the connectome — the theoretical map of all the connections in the brain — has suggested that mental illness stems from unusual patterns of connectivity, and that the healing potential of psychedelic drugs comes from their ability to alter those links. In their study of participants on LSD, the team used a technique called “connectome-harmonic decomposition” to show the ways in which LSD alters connections among and within areas of the brain.

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In the study, the authors analyzed fMRI data from 12 participants who were observed on LSD and a placebo. Atasoy says this novel analytical technique could provide new insights into how and why psychedelics alter the way people’s brains function.

“We applied a new analysis, a harmonic decoding of fMRI data, which looks at neural activity in a new way; as a combination of harmonic waves in the brain that we call ‘connectome harmonics’,” Atasoy told PsyPost. “The connectome harmonics we used to decode brain activity, which was first introduced in a Nature Communications publication in 2016, are universal harmonic waves, such as sound waves emerging within a musical instrument, but adapted to the anatomy of the brain, i.e. to the human connectome.”

Under the influence of LSD, subjects’ brains expressed a harmony of functional waves across various areas in a way that was not random. They call this “repertoire expansion,” suggesting that brain areas under the influence of LSD became connected to other areas that they don’t usually work with. Furthermore, the way in which those connections formed was not random but structured, suggesting that the brain was undergoing a reorganizational process rather than building links indiscriminately.

LSD has gained increasing acceptance as the neuroscience community continues to investigate its healing potential.

Though the reorganizational process slowed down as the LSD’s effects wore off, the researchers found that some degree of reorganization persisted in the participants’ brains, often translating to relief from distressing symptoms of mental illness.

Of course, before doctors begin to even think about prescribing LSD to treat mental illness, researchers will first have to determine what exactly the neurological reorganization that occurs during a psychedelic experience entails, how long it lasts, and, perhaps most crucially, how it alters a person’s subjective experience long after the drug’s effects subside.

Abstract: Recent studies have started to elucidate the effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on the human brain but the underlying dynamics are not yet fully understood. Here we used ’connectome-harmonic decomposition’, a novel method to investigate the dynamical changes in brain states. We found that LSD alters the energy and the power of individual harmonic brain states in a frequency-selective manner. Remarkably, this leads to an expansion of the repertoire of active brain states, suggestive of a general re-organization of brain dynamics given the non-random increase in co-activation across frequencies. Interestingly, the frequency distribution of the active repertoire of brain states under LSD closely follows power-laws indicating a re-organization of the dynamics at the edge of criticality. Beyond the present findings, these methods open up for a better understanding of the complex brain dynamics in health and disease.

On Monday, scientists revealed the first images of a human inside the world’s newest total body scanner, called EXPLORER. The name is fitting because this scanner really leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, tracking the way drugs and disease progress through every nook and cranny in the body.

Designed by biomedical engineering professor Simon Cherry, Ph.D., and biophysicist Ramsey Badawi, Ph.D. at University of California, Davis, this scanner produces images that look like a hybrid between a PET scan (which is often used to find tumors) and an X-ray, all in ghostly black and white. But what’s interesting about EXPLORER, which will be officially unveiled at the Radiological Society of North America meeting on November 24th, isn’t that it produces detailed images of tissues or bones. Cherry tells Inverse that it can also create 3D movies showing where certain drugs may end up in the body.

While we all love sleeping there’s nothing more disgusting that what you’re sleeping in. Your sheets, by all conventional standards, are hosts for thousands of gross bacteria, fungi, sweat and bodily excretions that you sleep in every night. Worst part is that most people don’t wash their sheets nearly enough. While there are some that throw their dirty sheets in the laudry weekly, as recommended, most people can go weeks without it. They are lying in filth on a nightly basis and doing nothing about it.

Climate change often conjures up images of heat, drought, and hurricanes. But according to the latest US National Climate Assessment, released on Nov. 23, 2018, winters have warmed three times faster than summers in the Northeast in recent years. These changes are also producing significant effects.

Historically, over 50 percent of the northern hemisphere has had snow cover in winter. Now warmer temperatures are reducing the depth and duration of winter snow cover. Many people assume that winter is a dormant time for organisms in cold climates, but decades of research now show that winter climate conditions — particularly snowpack — are important regulators of the health of forest ecosystems and organisms that live in them.

After a 41-year journey, NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft is officially the second human-made object to leave our solar system. Researchers announced on Monday that on November 5, Voyager 2 broke through the heliosphere, the bubble of ionized particles that envelops the solar system. This spectacular outcome, the Voyager project scientists revealed at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, was never guaranteed when the craft launched in 1977.