Ever since LSD was first produced back in 1938, psychologists have been fascinated with the ways that it can seemingly unlock new pathways in the brain. In fact, it was used as a commercial psychiatric medicine for years before it was finally banned in the 1960s due to its association with that decade's youth counterculture movement. Now, the psychedelic drug might be making a comeback as a brain-enhancing supplement.
Specifically, researcher Amanda Feilding of the Beckley Foundation in the United Kingdom is spearheading a study to see whether LSD can allow humans to regain their supremacy over machines in games like chess or the ancient Chinese game of Go, reports Motherboard.
When it comes to board games, humans are no longer any match for the computing power of artificial intelligence. But some games, like Go, also have a creative element — a certain openness and complexity involved in gameplay that computing power can't touch. It's in this way that the mind-opening qualities of LSD might give us a leg up.
"I found that if I was on LSD and my opponent wasn't, I won more games," claimed Feilding, who used to play Go with colleagues while taking the psychedelic drug before it was banned back in 1968. "For me that was a very clear indication that it improves cognitive function, particularly a kind of intuitive pattern recognition."
Feilding's plan is to recruit about 20 participants who will be given low doses of LSD (either 10, 20, or 50 micrograms), or a placebo, while performing a number of cognitive tasks, including a competition in the game of Go against intelligent computers. Participants will have their brains scanned with MRI while engaged in the experiment.
Doses of the drug will be low for a reason. Feilding wants to test whether microdoses of LSD will provide a mental boost without any of the hallucinogenic side effects the drug is known for. In fact, microdosing on LSD is part of a new fad, particularly in Silicon Valley, where users claim to achieve heightened creativity, lowered depression, and even relief from chronic somatic pain with minor doses of the controversial substance.
Up until now, all of these claims have remained untested. First, though, Feilding needs to get her research funded, which is not an easy task for a study involving hallucinogenic drugs. She has just launched a crowdsourcing campaign to get her fundraising goals over the hump.
"It's frightening how expensive this kind of research is," she said. "I'm very keen on trying to alter how drug policy categorizes these compounds because the research is much more costly simply because LSD is a controlled substance."
Feilding, who is confident that LSD microdosing could become a brain food of the future once the stigma of the drug is removed, added: "I think the microdose is a very delicate and sensitive way of treating people. We need to continue to research it and make it available to people."