Summary: A new study looks at how LSD affects the ability to correctly put a name to an object.
Source: Technische Universität Kaiserslautern.
The consumption of LSD, short for lysergic acid diethylamide, can produce altered states of consciousness. This can lead to a loss of boundaries between the self and the environment, as might occur in certain psychiatric illnesses. David Nutt, professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, leads a team of researchers who study how this psychedelic substance works in the brain.
In this study, Dr. Neiloufar Family, post-doc from the University of Kaiserslautern, investigates how LSD can affect speech and language. She asked ten participants to name a sequence of pictures both under placebo and under the effects of LSD, one week apart.
“Results showed that while LSD does not affect reaction times,” explains lead author Neiloufar Family, “people under LSD made more mistakes that were similar in meaning to the pictures they saw.” For example, when people saw a picture of a car, they would accidentally say ‘bus’ or ‘train’ more often under LSD than under placebo. This indicates that LSD seems to effect the mind’s semantic networks, or how words and concepts are stored in relation to each other. When LSD makes the network activation stronger, more words from the same family of meanings come to mind.
The results from this experiment can lead to a better understanding of the neurobiological basis of semantic network activation. Neiloufar Family explains further implication: “These findings are relevant for the renewed exploration of psychedelic psychotherapy, which are being developed for depression and other mental illnesses. The effects of LSD on language can result in a cascade of associations that allow quicker access to far away concepts stored in the mind.”
The many potential uses of this class of substances are under scientific debate. “Inducing a hyper-associative state may have implications for the enhancement of creativity,” Family adds. The increase in activation of semantic networks can lead distant or even subconscious thoughts and concepts to come to the surface.
Source: Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
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Original Research: Full open access research for “Semantic activation in LSD: evidence from picture naming” by Neiloufar Family, David Vinson, Gabriella Vigliocco, Mendel Kaelen, Mark Bolstridge, David J. Nutt and Robin L. Carhart-Harris in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. Published online August 11 2016 doi:10.1080/23273798.2016.1217030
Semantic activation in LSD: evidence from picture naming
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a classic psychedelic drug that alters cognition in a characteristic way. It has been suggested that psychedelics expand the breadth of cognition via actions on the central nervous system. Previous work has shown changes in semantic processing under psilocybin (a related psychedelic to LSD) that are consistent with an increased spread of semantic activation. The present study investigates this further using a picture-naming task and the psychedelic, LSD. Ten participants completed the task under placebo and LSD. Results revealed significant effects of LSD on accuracy and error correction that were consistent with an increased spread of semantic activation under LSD. These results are consistent with a generalised “entropic” effect on the mind. We suggest incorporating direct neuroimaging measures in future studies, and to employ more naturalistic measures of semantic processing that may enhance ecological validity.
“Semantic activation in LSD: evidence from picture naming” by Neiloufar Family, David Vinson, Gabriella Vigliocco, Mendel Kaelen, Mark Bolstridge, David J. Nutt and Robin L. Carhart-Harris in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. Published online August 11 2016 doi:10.1080/23273798.2016.1217030