Our Brain on LSD

Across the high desert of Sonora, saguaro stretch to over forty feet, mules wander without aim across the plain, and ancient crevasses of iron oxide run in deep seams miles into the earth’s crust, creating a vortex, a powerful magnetic field that can heal the mind. Like magic. It balances us.

You are there, long day on the paths, and you can hear the music from your speaker jangling off the backpack strap. You search for a sweet spot, on the knobs, while you walk the red rocks, in the middle of an afternoon.

The sun dips down the sky, the music woofs under the wind that flicks across the soundwaves, like opening and closing your eyes.

You need to adjust the volume up, or down, just a touch, to find the setting where you can hear each thing in the music and still hear nature: this is serotonin talking to you. You can hear it when it’s right. Like the magnetism of iron oxide, serotonin has the power to balance the connections in your brain and bring you into tune with your surroundings.

The neurotransmitter that tells you happy/sad, that fires when you hear the clam of bramble sponge against the mountain, see the jackrabbit plod out in front of you, disappear, serotonin signals the pleasure in those casual observations, turns the empirical into feeling.

This sort of connection, of course, is what lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) specializes in. It can create those connections, boost them, naturally and without harm, and spread them out across other transmitters that may not always be in communication. The serotonin in psychedelics asks these transmitters to talk to one another, just as the landscape draws us into conversation.

Connecting the connectors, LSD is like vocals over the synth over the bass, like that Underworld song that you can hear day and night, whether it is present or not, and this is serotonin’s special mystery.

Think about it. There could be a part of your brain ready to pick up a paintbrush, except the part of your brain that knows what feels good has never told it to feel good with a paintbrush, or told it there is nothing finer than catching the breeze on the top of a millennia-old rock formation miles north of Sedona.

One way to think about the effect of serotonin, and that’s across the family of psychedelics that effect and enhance serotonin in the brain, is that it leads you to an optimal volume (think sound, but think also of space) for your creativity to take over.

You don’t have to remain in that enhanced state forever to grasp it, but those connections, when you are there, will show you things, will have you feel things, that you can take away.