A recent study conducted by researchers from the US and Germany investigated the effects of microdosing LSD on brain complexity and task performance. The study involved giving 21 adults either a placebo or small doses of LSD, specifically 13 or 26 micrograms. According to the researchers, these doses rarely lead to hallucinatory effects. Surprisingly, it was found that the 26-microgram dose of LSD increased brain complexity by about 12 percent compared to the placebo, without altering consciousness. Brain complexity is a measure of unique brain signals that usually correlate with levels of consciousness.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, was discovered accidentally in the 1930s while researchers were looking for a drug to improve blood flow and breathing. Since then, its psychedelic effects have gained it more recognition. The compound is now known to activate a specific type of serotonin receptor in the brain, leading to more complex patterns of brain activity. The “entropic brain hypothesis” suggests that psychedelics achieve therapeutic benefits through increased neural complexity, which can disrupt unhelpful thought and behavior patterns under the right conditions.

Microdosing LSD, which involves taking very low quantities of psychedelics, has gained significant attention over the last decade. Many people have reported wide-ranging benefits such as improved mood, creativity, energy levels, and brainpower. While the scientific evidence for these claims remains inconclusive, microdosing LSD could potentially be an appealing form of therapy if the positive effects of higher doses can be achieved without the associated safety and ethical concerns related to altered states of consciousness.

Randomized controlled trials in healthy individuals have shown that low doses of LSD can enhance well-being in certain ways, such as reducing pain perception. During the trials, participants’ brain activity was measured using resting state electroencephalography (EEG) while the effects of the drug were expected to peak. Subsequent questionnaires were used to assess any changes in consciousness experienced by the participants. The study also included experiments with moderate and high doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from cannabis and medical methamphetamine, which didn’t have the same effects on neural complexity as LSD.

The research team found that only the 26-microgram dose of LSD had a significant effect on neural complexity, increasing it by approximately 12 percent compared to the placebo. Interestingly, this change in brain complexity did not result in any reported alterations in states of consciousness among the participants. Despite some individuals reporting slight increases in anxiety and elation, the overall effects on consciousness were negligible. The research highlights the complex relationship between neural complexity and changes in consciousness.

Further research is needed to determine whether the increased brain complexity observed in individuals taking microdoses of LSD leads to cognitive, behavioral, or therapeutic outcomes. While clinical trials on microdosing LSD have not yet demonstrated clear benefits, the potential risks associated with this practice remain unclear as well. Researchers acknowledge the need for better scales to accurately measure the effects of psychedelics and their impact on consciousness. Understanding the mechanisms through which LSD affects neural signaling at low doses may have profound implications for conscious processes and therapeutic interventions.

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