Researchers have discovered the hallucinogenic drug LSD that contributes to the increase in social interactions, potentially opening up new therapeutic applications.
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) became a popular psychedelic drug in the 1960s and is again gaining popularity, with some young professionals claiming to take microdoses to enhance their creativity.
Despite rigorous analysis and experimentation, including in the CIA’s illegal MKUltra project in the 1950s, scientists have not been able to determine the mechanism of LSD’s action on the brain – until now .
Researchers at McGill University in Canada have found that LSD activates serotonin 5-HT2A receptors and AMPHA receptors in the brain, both of which combine to promote social interaction.
In their study, published in the journal PNAS, the scientists administered a low dose of LSD to mice over a period of seven days and found that it resulted in an observable increase in their sociability.
Although the behavior in mice was not directly equivalent to that in humans, with the researchers noting that it was largely analogous to empathy and social behavior, the main outcome was the identification of the sub-mechanism. underlying the behavioral effect.
“It was previously known that LSD binds to the 5-HT2A receptor,” said Professor Nahum Sonenberg of the McGill Department of Biochemistry, co-author of the report.
“The novelty of this research is that it has identified that the prosocial effects of LSD activate 5-HT2 receptors, which in turn activate the excitatory synapses of the AMPA receptor as well as the mTORC1 protein complex.”
These brain pathways have been shown to be deregulated in mental disorders with social deficits, such as autism spectrum disorders, according to previous research by Professor Sonenberg.
The next step for the researchers is to test LSD on mutant mice that exhibit behavioral deficits similar to those in human conditions, including autism spectrum disorders and social anxiety disorders.
The hope, according to McGill University, “is to possibly explore whether micro-doses of LSD or some newer derivatives might have a similar effect in humans and whether this might also be a viable and safe treatment option.” .
“Social interaction is a fundamental characteristic of human behavior,” added co-lead author Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, professor in the McGill Department of Psychiatry and psychiatrist at the McGill University Health Center.
“These hallucinogenic compounds, which in low doses are able to increase sociability may help to better understand the pharmacology and neurobiology of social behavior and, ultimately, to develop and discover new and safer drugs for mental disorders. . “