Testing Effects of LSD on Adults with Autism

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Normally the brain is not functioning on a level that includes excess release of serotonin, excess release of dopamine and endorphins, or there are certain vital connections that we don’t have access to on a conscious level, especially not simultaneously. However, when LSD is introduced, connections and reactions in the brain seem to be stimulated on a hyperactive level that can be seen in scans of brain activity. Dr.

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Robin Carhart-Harris, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial described it as an “explosion of communication” that lights up the entire brain, places that wouldn’t normally be used to contribute to visual perceptions and other information from excitatory impulses. Specialists recommend not consuming high doses of LSD and not taking it often for fear of possible harm, and even permanent damage. High doses are considered to be anything from 750 micrograms and higher, which can increase the potential for bad trips. Some people consider really high doses to have “mind-shattering” effects. The recommended amounts range from 20 ug to 150 ug. 100ug being the average common dose. LSD in moderation and in a controlled and safe environment at a safe dose will lower the risk of potential brain damage and allow us to monitor and collect data on the specific effects of LSD on the brain.

Acid is non-addictive though many side effects such as paranoia, anxiety and delusions are possible leading to reported cases of developed HPPD or Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder where one experiences sensory disruptions during or after stopping LSD. However, development of HPPD is more common in people who practice micro-dosing frequently over a long period of time. Most people take LSD on a yearly basis and tend to consume the average dose, and are less likely to develop HPPD.

Autism is a developmental disorder, present from early childhood, that hinders full communication and ability to socially interact and pick up on social cues. However, people diagnosed with autism are more likely to perform well in areas where logic is most obvious. Their brains tend to lack synchrony in areas towards the back, specifically due to tighter connections in the front-lobe circuits and too few outstretched links between the frontal lobe and the rest of the brain. The frontal lobe is responsible for reasoning and planning, which is probably why logic is most favored with those with autism. But the excessive pressure put on those circuits causes for other places in the frontal lobe, specifically the Broca’s area, to be unable to understand/express speech. The areas towards the back, such as the parietal lobe in the upper rear of the brain, are home to the Wernicke’s area, and long-distance links between this area and the frontal lobe cause lack of ability to understand and process complex thought. Ultimately, autism is caused by a mis-wiring of the communicative circuits in the brain where some areas are tighter or looser than others causing developmental issues pertaining to social interaction.

In my experiment, I will research the hypothesis of whether or not those areas most significant to contributing to cases of autism will be affected by LSD, and see if activity in those areas will re-wire or manipulate neuro-plasticity in cases of autism leading to slight or significant changes in behaviour or social engagement. In the experiment, LSD will be introduced to a group of 100 people ages 25-30 who had no prior experiences on LSD, participants would have to have been previously diagnosed autistic. Another 50 would also be previously diagnosed autistic and would serve as the control group, and would NOT be given LSD. Another 100 people, would be non-autistic, have no prior experiences with the drug, and also fall in the 25 to 30 year age range. 50 of those participants would be introduced with LSD and the other 50 would not. We would do this to monitor the overall effects of LSD on a brain without autism or any other developmental issues. We would place each participant through an MRI scan to monitor brain activity prior to the experimental groups (with and without autism) being given the LSD. We would also give them a series of mental-performance tasks, including group discussions and social interactions, puzzles, and monitoring emotional responses to certain social cues or being shown images. We will monitor their performance on each and record and collect data. We would then evenly distribute the most accurate dosage of 100ug to our experimental groups, because the average 100ug dosage trip lasts about 4-6 hours, we’d wait 2 hours and place them through another MRI and again put them through a series of mental performance tasks at the same level of difficulty as the last and monitor the findings. We will repeat the process again after another 2 hours two more times (total of 6 hours).

Due to the excess release of the neurotransmitter known as serotonin, sleep is common. Participants must only fall asleep after the six hours. During sleep we will monitor brain activity as well. Participants must only sleep for four hours. We will again place them (after 10 hours) through the MRI and another round of performance tasks, and monitor our findings.

What we will be looking for is whether or not LSD effects those areas of the brain that are “mis-wired” in people with autism and how people with autism respond to being given the drug compared to those who do not have autism and those with autism that did not receive the drug at all. We will monitor emotional response and mental performance after each time stamp and see whether or not it has a significant effect on any of our experimental groups. Based on this we will formulate a conclusion on whether or not LSD can be used in future methods to treat- or serve as treatment for autism.

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