This Is the Brain on Hallucinogens

This Is the Brain on Hallucinogens
Posted by FoM on March 12, 2001 at 22:22:01 PT
By Sandra Blakeslee
Source: New York Times
Albert Hoffman, the Swiss chemist who discovered LSD in 1943 and was the first person known to have taken an acid trip, described his experience as having two parts: "On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms," he wrote in his journal. "My surroundings had now transformed themselves in more terrifying ways. Everything in the room spun around, and the familiar objects and pieces of furniture assumed grotesque, threatening forms."
But after a while, "the horror softened and gave way to a feeling of good fortune and gratitude.""Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hyridizing themselves in constant flux," he wrote. "Every sound generated a vividly changing image, with its own consistent form and color."Users of LSD and many psychiatrists who have used the drug in therapy sessions say that these kinds of effects provide a window into the human unconscious. When people let go of the past in an altered state, they can dredge material from the deep within themselves.Or can they? To Dr. Jack Cowan, a mathematician at the University of Chicago and a number of other scientists who study the architecture of the brain's visual areas, the dancing geometical patterns observed by Dr. Hoffman are not in the least mysterious. Cells in primary visual areas are specialized for detecting edges and contours in normal vision, he said.When these cells are stimulated by a hallucinogen, they automatically produce visions of spirals, pinwheels, tunnels, funnels, spirals, honeycombs, checkerboards and cobwebs. As the brain struggles to make sense of these images, it may make up a story to explain what it is happening, he said.People may find the results helpful or insightful, he said, but they flow not from some mysterious netherworld world but from the architecture of their own brains.Source: New York Times (NY) Author: Sandra BlakesleePublished: March 13, 2001 Copyright: 2001 The New York Times Company Address: 229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036 Fax: (212) 556-3622 Contact: letters Website: Forum: Heffter Research Institute Says LSD Cured His Allergy Test Hallucinogens for Mental Ills
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