Scientists Want To Study LSD Microdosing For The First Time, But They Need Your Help

Your brain on a placebo (left). Your brain on LSD (right). Imperial College London

LSD microdosing could finally get the exploration it deserves, with UK researchers launching a crowdfunding campaign to scientifically study its effects on the brain for the very first time.

This much-hyped method involves consuming a tiny quantity of LSD, using doses so small you won't experience a vivid psychedelic trip at all. Instead, many people report a subtle sense of well-being and being "at ease" with the world. This trendy method has gained somewhat of a cult following (especially among Silicon Valley creatives) for its reported ability to enhance creativity and even treat mental health conditions, from depression to post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The Beckley Foundation and Imperial College London have now launched a crowdfunding campaign to make this research into a reality. The plan is to give 20 participants a placebo, 10, 20, or 50 micrograms of LSD and put them under the gaze of an fMRI scanner. Scientists will then document and analyze their brain activity while they perform numerous cognitive tasks, such as playing the intensely tough strategy game of Go against a computer.

“This is the first time we are actually properly evaluating microdosing, where we’re using brain imaging to figure out what the effects are and how it produces these effects,” Ben Taub of the Beckley Foundation told IFLScience. “[Previously] there’s just been surveys where researchers put out a website telling people how to microdose, and then get them to email in their experiences or fill out a daily questionnaire.”

The project will need around £350,000 ($452,100) of funding to get going. All being well, it could start as early as this fall when the crowdfunding effort finishes. Regulations and legality shouldn’t be too much of an issue either since Imperial College already hold a license to study LSD, so the research only needs to get passed by the university’s ethical permission board to go ahead.

“We have already done a brain imaging study with LSD but with full ‘recreational’ doses. So we’ve already found what LSD does to the brain,” Taub added. Now, the task is to see how “sub-perceptual” quantities of the psychedelic compares to these larger doses in terms of brain activity and whether it matches up to the reported effects of boosting creativity and mental well-being.

If you want to get involved, head over to the crowdfunding website to donate. The site offers the chance to fund four independent studies related to groundbreaking mental health research, including research into end-of-life distress, alcoholism research, PTSD research, and this project on microdosing.

“We’ve been completely inundated with people emailing us to see if they can take part in the study," Taub added. "I think that’s something we won’t have any trouble with.”

Disclosure: Benjamin Taub is a former employee of IFLScience, and still occasionally works for us on a freelance basis

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