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Dr Robin Carhart-Harris is the first scientist in over 40 years to test LSD on humans - and you're next The scientist talks to Laurence Phelan about fighting the establishment, battling preconceptions and breaking down egos Laurence Phelan
Sunday 17 August 2014 Print A A A
On a hot evening in June, in a crowded room above a London pub, Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, a research associate in the Centre for Neuropsychopharma-cology at Imperial College, is giving a public talk about his work. He is having to make himself heard over the boozy commotion downstairs, where people are watching Chile put Spain out of the World Cup. But there is a slightly giddy atmosphere in the function room, too, because the doctor's area of research is as exciting as it is taboo: he is investigating the brain effects and potential therapeutic uses of psychedelic drugs.
Carhart-Harris is the first person in the UK to have legally administered doses of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) to human volunteers since the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, and his presentation climaxes with a slide showing something no one else has seen before: an as-yet unpublished cross-sectional image of the brain of a volunteer who was in an fMRI scanner while tripping on acid. Blobs of colour indicate changes in blood flow, from which can be inferred changes in levels of activity in specific brain regions – notably, in this case, the hippo-campus, which is involved, among other things, in making memories and giving them context.
"We've only looked in six brains so far," says Carhart-Harris when we meet a couple of weeks later in a coffee shop near his flat in Notting Hill. Born in Durham 33 years ago and raised in Bournemouth, he has an indie haircut and looks a bit like he could be the celebrity physicist Brian Cox's cooler younger brother. He is a careful and articulate speaker, but his enthusiasm for his work is evident. "We're at an early, but certainly promising, stage. It's really exciting," he says.
The potential scientific benefits of psychedelics (as distinct from whatever cultural, social, artistic, spiritual or subjectively enjoyable benefits one might also argue they have) fall broadly into two categories. They look like being medicinally or therapeutically useful, and they offer an unconventional view of the workings of the human mind, such that the age-old, so-called "hard problem of consciousness" might be made a little easier. The etymology of the word "psychedelic" is, after all, from the Greek for "mind-revealing".
Plant-derived psychedelics such as mescaline (from the peyote cactus), DMT (from the root of the ayahuasca vine) and psilocybin (magic mushrooms) have been used therapeutically and medicinally for millennia. In 1943, however, Albert Hofmann, a 37-year-old Swiss chemist in the laboratories of the pharmaceutical company Sandoz in Basel, accidentally ingested – through his fingertips – a chemical he had synthesised from the ergot fungus, and became the first person to experience its remarkable mind-altering properties. Interviewed shortly before his 100th birthday, he called LSD "medicine for the soul".
Carl Sagan - "Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people."
Robert Pirsig - "When one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion."
Brian Cox - "[One] problem with today’s world is that everyone believes they have the right to express their opinion AND have others listen to it. The correct statement of individual rights is that everyone has the right to an opinion, but crucially, that opinion can be roundly ignored and even made fun of, particularly if it is demonstrably nonsense."
love it, the world will see that LSD can be a gateway to reality , not as we know it but as it is.
-------------------- Anything posted from this account is made up for the entertainment of others, this account is a complete work of fiction. Its not illegal to get bored and make up stories, authors do it all the time.
Quote: Simplepowa said: an as-yet unpublished cross-sectional image of the brain of a volunteer who was in an fMRI scanner while tripping on acid. Blobs of colour indicate changes in blood flow, from which can be inferred changes in levels of activity in specific brain regions – notably, in this case, the hippo-campus, which is involved, among other things, in making memories and giving them context.
I can't imagine tripping and going in an MRI machine, but good job in the name of science.