LSD enhances the emotional response to music
There is renewed interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). LSD was used extensively in the 1950s and 1960s as an adjunct in psychotherapy, reportedly enhancing emotionality. Music is an effective tool to evoke and study emotion and is considered an important element in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy; however, the hypothesis that psychedelics enhance the emotional response to music has yet to be investigated in a modern placebo-controlled study.
The present study sought to test the hypothesis that music-evoked emotions are enhanced under LSD.
Ten healthy volunteers listened to five different tracks of instrumental music during each of two study days, a placebo day followed by an LSD day, separated by 5–7 days. Subjective ratings were completed after each music track and included a visual analogue scale (VAS) and the nine-item Geneva Emotional Music Scale (GEMS-9).
Results demonstrated that the emotional response to music is enhanced by LSD, especially the emotions “wonder”, “transcendence”, “power” and “tenderness”.
These findings reinforce the long-held assumption that psychedelics enhance music-evoked emotion, and provide tentative and indirect support for the notion that this effect can be harnessed in the context of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Further research is required to test this link directly.
KeywordsLSD Serotonin 2A receptor Psychotherapy Psychedelic Music Emotion
This research received financial and intellectual support from the Beckley Foundation and was conducted as part of a wider Beckley-Imperial research programme. The report presents independent research carried out at the NIHR/Wellcome Trust Imperial Clinical Research Facility. Support for Dr. Barrett was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Grant T32DA07209. The authors would like to thank Matthew Wall and Nicola Kalk for their help in designing this study.
- Benjamini Y, Hochberg Y (1995) Controlling the false discovery rate—a practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. J R Stat Soc Ser B Methodol 57:289–300Google Scholar
- Carhart-Harris RL, Erritzoe D, Williams T, Stone JM, Reed LJ, Colasanti A, Tyacke RJ, Leech R, Malizia AL, Murphey K, Hobden P, Evans J, Feilding A, Wise RG, Nutt DJ (2012) Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109:2138–43PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Cohen S (1970) Drugs of hallucination: the LSD story. Harper Collins, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Gasser P, Kirchner K, Passie T (2014b) LSD-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with a life-threatening disease: a qualitative study of acute and sustained subjective effects. J Psychopharmacol 1:57–68Google Scholar
- Grof S (1980) LSD psychotherapy. Hunter House Publishers, AlamedaGoogle Scholar
- Leuner HC (1983) Psycholytic therapy: hallucinogenics as an aid in psychodynamically oriented psychotherapy. In: Grinspoon J, Bakalar JB (eds) Psychedelic reflections. Human Science Press, Oxford, pp 177–92Google Scholar
- Maslow AH (1993) The farther reaches of human nature. Arkana, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Pahnke W (1963) Drugs and mysticism: an analysis of the relationship between psychedelic drugs and the mystical consciousness. A thesis completed for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Harvard University, Cambridge, MassGoogle Scholar
- Richards WA (2009) The rebirth of resarch with entheogens: lessons from the past and hypotheses for the future. J Transpers Psychol 41:139–50Google Scholar