New research published in Experimental Neurology provides some initial evidence that the psychedelic substance known as LSD has nootropic properties. Study found LSD increased markers of neuroplasticity in human brain organoids, increased novelty preference in rats and improved memory performance in humans.
The authors of the new study were interested in better understanding whether psychedelic-induced neuroplasticity could be harnessed to improve learning and memory.
“My main research topics are the mechanisms of neural plasticity that underlie the cognitive benefits of sleep and dreams. In the last decade I became interested in psychedelics because they produce dream states with great cognitive impacts, “said the author of the study Siddhartha Ribeirofull professor of neuroscience at the Brain Institute of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte.
The researchers created brain organoids, brain-like structures grown from human-induced pluripotent stem cells, to investigate the effects of LSD at the cellular level. They found that LSD affected several processes, including DNA replication, neuronal pathway seeking, and mTOR signaling.
“Proteomic data from human brain organoids suggest that LSD regulates multiple processes involved in neuronal plasticity,” the researchers said. “In particular, we found significant LSD-induced changes in the mTOR pathway, a protein kinase involved in multiple neuronal plasticity events, which acts as a hub between plasticity, learning, and memory.”
In their human tests, the researchers found that participants tended to perform better on memory tests the day after taking LSD, compared to the day after taking the placebo. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that LSD improves subacute memory in humans,” the authors wrote in their study. However, they noted that the effects of LSD were not very strong, which could be a result of “the single, relatively low dose applied.”
Together, the findings provide evidence that “even a single dose of LSD can promote neuronal plasticity and improve cognition in healthy adults, several days after LSD administration,” Ribeiro told PsyPost. However, the researcher noted that “we still need to learn more about age differences, possible gender differences, and the role of context (environment) in modulating effects.”