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Human brain vs. AI: LSD microdosing could be key to victory

When LSD was made illegal in the United States more than 50 years ago, research on the drug ground to a near halt. Advocates of LSD microdosing, however, claim the psychedelic could help boost creativity, treat alcohol addiction and psychological disorders, and more.

But before scientists can study microdosing’s effects on mental health, they need a baseline.

That’s why Amanda Feilding wants to launch the first LSD microdosing study, pitting humans on either LSD or a placebo against artificial intelligence to play the game of Go. Her goal is to see whether the psychedelic can boost human performance – and winning streaks.

Feilding, the founder of the Beckley Foundation that supports neuroscientific research into mind-altering drugs, hopes to show that LSD can be useful in small doses.

Why Go? Feilding used to play the game with friends regularly, and found that she tended to win more if she dosed herself with LSD first, especially when she was playing against someone not using the drug.

“For me that was a very clear indication that it improves cognitive function, particularly a kind of intuitive pattern recognition,” Feilding told Motherboard.

Her study would be the first to look at the benefits of LSD microdosing. Until now, all data on the effects of small doses of LSD have been self-reported, like Feilding’s own experiences.

In the study, she plans to give 20 participants 10mg, 20mg or 50mg doses of LSD or a placebo, on four different occasions. Then, the participants will undergo MRI and MEG scans while performing a number of tasks, such as completing neuropsychological tests and playing Go against a computer.

It will be only the second time test participants have their brains scanned while on LSD, and the first time on microdoses.

The LSD microdosing study is being supported by Fundamental, which has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support it along with additional studies into LSD and the drug MDMA.

Fundamental is the organization of Rodrigo Niño, CEO of Prodigy and a New York real estate magnate. He launched the company after being diagnosed with end-stage cancer, which he survived.

“That near death experience changed me in a number of ways. It opened the door for somebody like me – science driven, rational, numbers driven – to start looking for alternative treatments to ease my suffering when traditional medicine failed me,” Niño continued.

After finding relief from end-of-life anxiety with ayahuasca, he decided to help fund research into psychedelic drugs and how they could aid in psychological disorders from anxiety and PTSD to addiction.

He’s teamed up with Feilding and other scientists to study LSD’s effects on end-of-life distress, alcoholism and other issues.

“For decades, we have seen anecdotal evidence that microdosing improves mood and well-being, enhances cognition, increases productivity, and boosts creativity,” Feilding said in a press release. “Now we have the opportunity to undertake the first controlled scientific investigation, including the latest brain imaging technology, into the effects of microdosing LSD, thereby finally establishing whether the claims about its benefits are true.”

By Kyla Cathey, Staff Writer

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