LSD Produces 'Harmonic' Order In The Brain

A recent study conducted by Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of Pompeu
Fabra has found out how LSD can produce psychedelic effects in the human brain which is responsible for “emergence of a new type of order in the brain”. The study has been published in the journal, Scientific Reports.

The study mainly focused on the changes caused by psychedelics. Mentioning his intention to conduct the research, the main author, a postdoctoral researcher, Selen Atasoy said:

“I am generally interested in novel therapeutic tools that can help with the healing of
psychiatric disorders, especially healing from trauma. I feel that as Western societies we
generally, tend to label and marginalize mental illness instead of seeing it rather as
a normal reaction to extreme and abnormal circumstances”

“My research focuses on understanding the changes in brain activity caused by using
these functional neuroimaging datasets,”

The methodology of the study includes a mathematical procedure named connectome-harmonic decomposition which observes the brain activity in a novel way and decodes human brain
activity.( Connectome refers to a special pattern of neural connections resembling wiring
diagram of the human brain also called universal harmonic waves- first coined its term in
2016 in a Nature Communication publication ).

The procedure of the research was analyzing fMRI data of 12 participants whose brain activity has been previously recorded under the influence of LSD and a placebo.

“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 explained to PsyPost.

 “The connectome harmonics we used to decode brain activity, which was first introduced in a Nature Communication 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.”

“Translating fMRI data into this harmonic language is actually not different than decomposing a
complex musical piece into its musical notes. The connectome-harmonic decoding of the fMRI
data under LSD showed that LSD not only increases the total energy of the brain but also
enriches the repertoire of connectome harmonics – the basic elements of this harmonic

“This repertoire expansion occurred not in a random manner but it was rather structured, which suggests a reorganization of brain dynamics and the emergence of new type of order in the
brain,” Atasoy said. “We also found that LSD selectively activated high-frequency connectome
harmonics and caused the brain activity to self-organize at criticality, right at the balance
between order and chaos.

The author simply summarizes the findings of the research in very few words:

“In summary, we found that what LSD does to your brain seems to be similar to jazz
improvisation; just like improvising jazz musicians use many more musical notes in a
spontaneous and non-random fashion, your brain combines many more of the harmonic waves
(connectome harmonics) spontaneously yet in a structured way.”

According to him, treating a patient with a psychological disorder becomes even worse, as the
social disregard of the person grows because of his illness.

“This, in my opinion, makes the recovery of a patient from trauma even more difficult, as this
the perspective of the society may further increase the dissociation‟ – the withdrawal of the person,
who experienced the traumatic event, from that painful experience.”

Atasoy told in an interview to about the contrasting effect of psychedelic, where patients
reclaim the traumatic experiences of their illnesses without dissociating it from them which
would slow the healing process. He observes a fast healing process among these patients.

“As Dr. Gabor Mate nicely explains, trauma is not caused by the extremely painful experience
itself but rather by our dissociation from that part of our self that had to bear that experience.
When I came across the studies about it was very remarkable to me to see how patients under the
effect of was able to reclaim and integrate their most traumatic experiences and how that led to
a powerful healing process,”

The author of the research mentions how, with the evolving technology, the analysis of
brain diseases have become easier compared to the traditional methods adopted in the past.

“It is probably due to this effect of psychedelics that a very strong, natural psychedelic –
ayahuasca – is considered a very powerful plant medicine in various indigenous cultures and has
been used in shamanic healing ceremonies for centuries. On the other hand, neuroscience today
has another very powerful tool; the imaging technologies such as functional magnetic resonance
imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) allow us to visualize the brain activity of
a person.”Atasoy also mentions the importance of the study as the initial experiment conducted for
comprehending the effect of LSD and the effects of other psychedelics and analyzing the
function of LSD further. He discusses the importance of further studies to understand the
roots of psychedelics’ therapeutic effect.”

“I think this study was an important step towards understanding the effect of LSD, and
potentially other, in terms of energy, frequency and the repertoire of brain states,” “It also
provided the first experimental evidence to suggest that LSD tunes brain dynamics towards
criticality – a delicate balance between order and disorder.”

“Also, it would be of great interest to explore how and why these changes in brain activity related
to a person‟s subjective experience such as mood changes under the effect of psychedelics.
Although this is rather a long-term research question, it is a crucial one, as it can give us a better
understanding of the roots of psychedelics‟ therapeutic effect.”

Commenting on the limitations of the study, he mentions:

“But in this study, we haven‟t yet looked at the neuronal mechanisms that cause these changes in
the brain activity and in brain dynamics. I think it is quite important to link these findings to the
effects of neurotransmitters, i.e. to the known effects of the psychedelics at a neuronal level.”
The author of the study mentions the future work of this study would be to find neural
mechanisms that link to the therapeutic effect of psychedelics.

“In the future, my hope is that we can gain some insights into the neural mechanisms
underlying the therapeutic effect and also of other therapeutic tools.”

LSD Produces 'Harmonic' Order In The Brain LSD Produces 'Harmonic' Order In The Brain Reviewed by Tim on April 22, 2018 Rating: 5

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