Researchers recently conducted the first-ever brain imaging study of LSD, commonly known as acid, and they did it with the help of crowdfunding.
LSD is an illegal drug, considered medically useless with a high potential for abuse by the Drug Enforcement Agency in the U.S., and is similarly outlawed in the U.K. Unfortunately for scientists, its status as an illicit substance hinders research. Governmental agencies that normally fund basic science research shy away from funding studies into psychedelics, according to Quartz, so the U.K. researchers turned to private grants and public crowdsourcing to fund their study.
The researchers initially asked for £25,000 (approximately $35,000 U.S.) but stretched the goal to £50,000 on the science crowdfunding website, Walacea. The additional funding was used to research how LSD affects creativity.
The researchers wanted to know how LSD affects the brain to produce its psychological effects, including ego loss (a disconnection from one’s sense of self) and its hallucinatory properties. According to the study, published open access in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), volunteers tripping on 75 micrograms of acid showed less coordination in a circuit of the brain called the default mode network. According to New Scientist, the less coordinated that network was, the less connected the participants felt to their sense of self, suggesting the default mode network plays a role in consciousness.
Additionally, the researchers saw increased activity in the area of the brain known as V1, which plays a role in how we process signals from our eyes. The researchers think this might explain the hallucinatory effects of LSD.
A lot of scientists believe that LSD could potentially help treat people with depression, alcoholism, and more. But to prove it they need to conduct additional research and, in particular, clinical trials. Clinical trials are quite expensive, costing upwards of a billion dollars to bring a new drug to market. Groups like the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) rely on private donations to conduct their trials.
However, after the success of this U.K. study, perhaps more researchers will turn to science crowdfunding websites like Walacea and Experiment.com.