When it comes to depression, however, the results have been extremely positive. “What people report is that sometimes from the first or second cycle, a lot of their depression lifts; they’re more functional, they take care of themselves better, and it’s quite remarkable.” This is all the more impressive when one considers that most of these participants had failed to respond to other treatments for depression.
How does microdosing work?
Rather than trying to blast open the doors of perception or decimate the ego, microdosing takes a subtle path towards psychological healing. “What we do not have with microdosing is any conventional psychedelic effects. No visuals, no transcendence, no demons or angels,” says Fadiman. “Instead we get a gentle stimulant and the feeling of mental clarity, so people’s moods improve and they function more effectively.”
However, because of the taboo that still surrounds psychedelics, obtaining funding and approval for in-depth neuroscientific studies remains a major challenge, and “no one has done any research at all on microdosing with brain science.” Fortunately, organizations like the Beckley Foundation have re-ignited psychedelic research in recent years, conducting several ground-breaking studies using larger doses of these drugs – some of which provide tantalizing clues as to the neurobiological mechanisms behind microdosing’s therapeutic effects.
Amanda Feilding, the founder and director of the Beckley Foundation based in Oxford, UK, made a promise to Albert Hofmann before he died that she would re-ignite scientific research into LSD. Speaking to IFLScience, she revealed how the benefits of microdosing may be at least partially explained by two recent brain-imaging studies conducted by the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme, which provided the world with its first glimpses of the human brain on both LSD and psilocybin – the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.
“Our research shows how taking a psychedelic reduces the blood supply to a high-level center called the default mode network (DMN), which is a collection of hub centers that manipulate the lower centers and control what enters consciousness and what doesn’t – very much like the conductor in an orchestra.”
By reducing the command of the DMN, psychedelics allow other areas of the brain to communicate more with one another. “So there’s a kind of anarchy, a more chaotic state, in which new ideas, associations, and observations can come up.” Not only does this increase creativity, it also allows users to break free from rigid modes of thought and cognition, such as those that underlie depression.
A recent study revealed how another psychedelic drug, psilocybin, increases connectivity throughout the brain. Beckley/Imperial Research Programme