Neuroscience research suggests LSD might enhance learning and memory by promoting brain plasticity



LSD, a psychedelic drug with nootropic effects, has some initial support from new studies published in Experimental Neurology. The results of the study showed that LSD enhanced human memory function, boosted novelty preference in rats, and raised indicators of neuroplasticity in human brain organoids.

Psychedelic medications have showed potential in the treatment of mental disorders like depression, PTSD, and addiction when used in conjunction with psychotherapy. Uncertainty still exists regarding the cellular and molecular processes behind psychedelics’ therapeutic benefits.
According to certain studies, the reason why psychedelic drugs have such favorable effects is because they encourage neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. The goal of the current study was to gain a better understanding of how psychedelic-induced neuroplasticity may be used to improve memory and learning.

“The brain plasticity processes underpinning the cognitive advantages of sleep and dreaming are my major research subjects. Because psychedelics induce dream-like experiences with significant cognitive effects, I have become interested in them in the last ten years, said research author Sidarta Ribeiro, a full professor of neuroscience at the Brain Institute of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte.

To study the biological effects of LSD, the researchers developed brain organoids, which are brain-like structures generated from human induced pluripotent stem cells. They discovered that LSD had an impact on a number of processes, including mTOR signaling, neuronal pathfinding, and DNA replication.
According to the researchers, proteomic information from human brain organoids “suggests that LSD affects several pathways involved in neuronal plasticity.” The mTOR pathway, a protein kinase implicated in several neuronal plasticity processes and serving as a hub between plasticity, learning, and memory, was particularly affected by LSD, as was the mTOR pathway, which we discovered to be significantly altered.

76 rats were subjected to a new object preference test several days after receiving a dosage of LSD or an inert saline solution by the researchers in order to assess the effects of LSD on hippocampus-dependent memory mechanisms. LSD-treated rats had a greater propensity to explore new items. But the amount of time spent generally investigating items did not seem to be impacted by LSD.

According to the researchers, “our data demonstrate that LSD pre-treatment can significantly boost novelty preference in rats several days after dosing, with a considerable single dosage impact.” The findings suggest that novelty seeking was boosted by LSD-induced plasticity.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, Ribeiro and his research group also looked at how LSD affected people. In the cross-over trial, 25 healthy participants who had taken LSD at least once before (but had abstained from using any psychedelic or other illegal substances for at least two weeks) were given 50 g of LSD in one session and 50 g of a placebo in the second session. The sessions were run in a random sequence.

Participants underwent a Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure exam and a visuospatial 2D object-location task the morning following dose as measures of memory consolidation (a commonly used neuropsychological assessment of memory encoding and recall in which participants are asked to reproduce a complicated line drawing).
The day after taking LSD, individuals generally performed better on memory tests than they did the day after taking the placebo, according to the researchers. According to the authors’ findings, this is the first study to demonstrate that LSD improves subacute memory in people. The effects of LSD, they observed, were, however, not particularly pronounced, possibly as a result of “the single, relatively low dose administered.”
Together, the results show “even a single dosage of LSD can increase brain plasticity and boost cognition in healthy people, several days after the LSD administration,” according to Ribeiro for PsyPost. We still need to understand more about age differences, potential gender disparities, and the function of environment (setting) in the modification of effects, the researcher pointed out.
Since the 1960s, psychedelics have been stigmatized, and in the last ten years, they have made a comeback in biology and medicine through the front door, according to Ribeiro. “Psychedelics, however, have uses beyond simply treating people with pathological conditions. They should be viewed as more than just a form of medicine because they may also be highly helpful in enhancing healthy people’s cognitive function.
Isis M. Ornelasa, Felipe A. Cini, Isabel Wießner, Encarni Marcos, Dráulio B. Arajo, Livia Goto-Silva, Juliana Nascimento, Sergio R. B. Silva, Marcelo N. Costa, Marcelo Falchi, Rodolfo Olivieri, Fernanda Palhano-Fontes, Eduardo Sequerra, Daniel Martins-de-Souza, Amanda Fe

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