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Researchers: LSD for better therapy of anxiety disorders?

Researchers: LSD for better therapy of anxiety disorders?


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LSD effects in the brain raise hope for therapeutic use
LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide) is primarily known as a hallucinogenic drug, but it also has a therapeutic potential that should not be underestimated, for example in the treatment of anxiety disorders or depression. In a recent study, scientists from the University of Basel were able to show how LSD eliminates negative emotions in the brain.

The researchers at the University of Basel found in their studies that LSD reduces the activity of a brain region that is central to the processing of negative emotions such as fear. This could also be important for the treatment of mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety disorders, the university said. The research team led by Professor Stefan Borgwardt published the results of the study in the specialist magazine "Translational Psychiatry".

Research on medical LSD application
In the past, LSD was mainly used as an intoxicant because of its hallucinogenic effects, although promising therapeutic applications were discussed shortly after the discovery by the Basel chemist Albert Hofmann in the 1940s. In psychiatry in particular, doctors hoped for positive effects, for example, for illnesses such as depression or alcohol addiction. But with the worldwide ban in the 1960s, medical research largely came to a standstill, according to the Basel University.

Acute effects of LSD on the brain were examined
According to Prof. Borgwardt and colleagues, the effects of hallucinogens on the psyche are extremely diverse and among other things the perception, the experience of time, the thinking and the emotional experience change. Interest in the research of hallucinogens for medical purposes has been reawakening for some years. In their current study, the scientists from the University Psychiatric Clinics (UPK) and the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University Hospital Basel (USB) have investigated the acute effects of LSD on the brain to create the basis for therapeutic applications.

Brain activity was determined using functional magnetic resonance imaging
"Psychoactive substances like LSD could offer an alternative to conventional medication, especially when combined with psychotherapy," the researchers say. It is already known that hallucinogens bind to a receptor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. However, it has so far remained open how the changes in consciousness affect the activity and connectivity of the brain. To check this, the researchers determined the brain activity of 20 healthy people after taking 100 micrograms LSD using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During the MRI examination, the subjects were shown pictures of faces that represented different emotional states such as anger, joy or fear, the university reports.

LSD inhibits activity in certain brain regions
In their research, the researchers found that depicting fear under the influence of LSD led to a significantly lower activity of the amygdala, a region of the brain that is believed to be central to the processing of emotions. This observation could explain some of the changes in emotional experience that occur after taking hallucinogens, report Prof. Borgwardt and colleagues. In a second step, the researchers, together with clinical pharmacologists from the University Hospital Basel, examined whether the subjective experience changed by LSD is related to the Amgydala. This seems to be the case, because the lower the LSD-induced amygdala activity of a person, the higher the person's subjective drug effect, the scientists report.

The first author Dr. According to Felix Müller, the “frightening” effect of LSD could be an important factor for positive therapeutic effects. In addition, it can be assumed that hallucinogens cause numerous other changes in brain activity and further studies are now needed to investigate their therapeutic potential, the researchers concluded. (fp)

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Video: Altered states: Can LSD contribute to mental health? (June 2022).


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