How LSD Works To Fight Depression
2 min

How LSD Works To Fight Depression

2 min
News Research

LSD could help those suffering from depression alleviate their symptoms. How? It all has to do with mental time travel.

No, we are not talking about tripping so hard you think you have travelled back in time. Science refers to mental time travel as the ability to ruminate on events from our past, or imagine how future events will transpire. Occasionally find yourself remembering how you made an absolute tit of yourself five years ago, spoiling the rest of your day? That is mental time travel. It is thought by many psychologists that our ability to replay memories over and over again can significantly contribute to our sense of self and identity, shaping the kind of people we are. It is also very common in people with depression, and LSD could combat it.

It is the default-mode network (DMN) within the brain that is responsible for us fretting over past events again and again. New research, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, has found that taking LSD can inhibit this functionality, helping those suffering from depression stop worrying about the past and future.

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Anyone who has taken psychedelics will know first-hand the power it has to inhibit the sense of self, allowing us to deconstruct our being and see things in a new light. Science refers to this as “ego dissolution.” fMRI scans have shown that this state is associated an inhibited DMN, thus bringing many to believe that using psychedelics, like LSD, actively inhibits the DMN, preventing mental time travel.

To put the theory to the test, a team from the University of Dundee recruited a pool of volunteers, giving half LSD and half a placebo. They were then monitored using fMRI as they underwent an interview with the researchers. Transcripts of the interviews were analysed in conjunction with the fMRI results, looking for linguistic constructs known as “theta roles,” which indicate mental time travel to both past and future.

It was found that those who had taken LSD referred to past events less often than those who had been given a placebo. Quite importantly, it was also found that the occurrences of mental time travel, and referral to past events, significantly correlated with the level of inhibition of the DMN. It strongly suggests that inhibiting the DMN can help keep people focused on the present, instead of mulling over the past and worrying about the future – a significant boon for those with depression.

It is worth noting that whether these effects remain beyond the initial high is unknown, and needs investigation. However, the very fact that LSD can disrupt the DMN and inhibit mental time travel gives us a good insight into the functioning of the brain and depression. It gives researchers a new avenue of exploration when it comes to fighting this mental disease. When you consider that microdosing LSD has also anecdotally been found to be effective at treating depression, things are looking up for this psychedelic drug.



Written by: Josh
Writer, psychonaut and cannabis aficionado, Josh is Zamnesia’s in-house expert. He spends his days nestled out in the countryside, delving into the hidden depths of all things psychoactive in nature.

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