Skip to main content
Log in

Low-dose LSD and the stream of thought: Increased Discontinuity of Mind, Deep Thoughts and abstract flow

  • Original Investigation
  • Published:
Psychopharmacology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Rationale

Stream of thought describes the nature of the mind when it is freely roaming, a mental state that is continuous and highly dynamic as in mind-wandering or free association. Classic serotonergic psychedelics are known to profoundly impact perception, cognition and language, yet their influence on the stream of thought remains largely unexplored.

Objective

To elucidate the effects of LSD on the stream of thought.

Methods

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, 24 healthy participants received 50 μg lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or inactive placebo. Mind-wandering was measured by the Amsterdam Resting State Questionnaire (ARSQ), free association by the Forward Flow Task (FFT) for three seed word types (animals, objects, abstract words). ARSQ and FFT were assessed at +0 h, +2 h, +4 h, +6 h, +8 h and +24 h after drug administration, respectively.

Results

LSD, compared to placebo, induced different facets of mind-wandering we conceptualized as “chaos” (Discontinuity of Mind, decreased Sleepiness, Planning, Thoughts under Control, Thoughts about Work and Thoughts about Past), “meaning” (Deep Thoughts, Not Sharing Thoughts) and “sensation” (Thoughts about Odours, Thoughts about Sounds). LSD increased the FFT for abstract words reflecting an “abstract flow” under free association. Overall, chaos was strongest pronounced (+2 h to +6 h), followed by meaning (+2 h to +4 h), sensation (+2 h) and abstract flow (+4 h).

Conclusions

LSD affects the stream of thought within several levels (active, passive), facets (chaos, meaning, sensation, abstractness) and time points (from +2 h to +6 h). Increased chaos, meaning and abstract flow at +4 h indicate the utility of a late therapeutic window in psycholytic therapy.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Similar content being viewed by others

References

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank Rodolfo Olivieri for his support in the data collection, Jon Sharp for the English language revision and Valerie Bonnelle for miscellaneous help.

Funding

This study received financial support from the Beckley Foundation and the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) - Finance Code 001.

The study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the University of Campinas and conducted in accordance with Good Clinical Practice and the Declaration of Helsinki. All participants provided written informed consent before participation.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

IW, LOM, DBA and LFT contributed to the study design. IW, MF and LFT recruited and selected the participants. IW and MF collected the data. IW, FPF and NBM analysed the data. IW wrote the manuscript. All authors revised the manuscript for intellectual content and approved its final version.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Isabel Wießner.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher's note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

This article belongs to a Special Issue on Psychopharmacology on Psychedelic Drugs

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file1 (DOCX 877 KB)

Supplementary file2 (PDF 946 KB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wießner, I., Falchi, M., Palhano-Fontes, F. et al. Low-dose LSD and the stream of thought: Increased Discontinuity of Mind, Deep Thoughts and abstract flow. Psychopharmacology 239, 1721–1733 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-021-06006-3

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-021-06006-3

Keywords

Navigation