Trippy

How LSD binds to your brain cells

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It’s no secret that LSD is one hell of a drug.

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It has such a profound effect on our brains that the drug has been touted as a treatment for certain mental-health conditions, including PTSD and depression.

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Scientists have found that LSD molecules bind to serotonin receptors in the brain, altering the brain’s chemical pathways. In turn, this can lead to hallucinations and intense emotions.

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But scientists are still studying exactly how the mechanism works. One team of researchers just discovered a new clue.

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Using X-rays to determine the LSD molecule’s crystal structure, the scientists discovered how exactly it binds to the serotonin receptor.

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It all comes down to one amino acid, a single building block of the protein that LSD binds to.

As LSD settles into a “pocket” in the serotonin receptor, the amino acid shifts position, allowing the pocket to expand.

The LSD molecule also creates a “lid” over the serotonin receptor, which is why trips can last hours.

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Some researchers have advocated for LSD as a treatment for conditions like cluster headaches, anxiety, and depression since the mid-19th century.

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But to fully understand its therapeutic potential, first scientists have to know every intimate detail about how the molecule affects our brains.

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With this new finding, scientists are getting closer to harnessing LSD’s powerful effects to potentially help people in need.

Read more mental-health stories here.

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