New Study Examines How LSD Affects Language, Creativity

By Seth Ferranti 08/25/16

The study is the first to explore the connection between LSD and language since the 1960s.

New Study Examines How LSD Effects Language, Creativity

A new study published in the journal Language, Cognition and Neuroscience relates how speech and language are affected by LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide. 

In the study, 10 subjects participated in a picture-naming task while under the effects of LSD. Participants were given between 40 and 80 micrograms of the psychedelic drug by injection, then they were asked to name each picture as quickly and accurately as possible.

The results showed an “entropic” effect on users' brains—consistent with the drug's ability to expand the mind. The researchers concluded that LSD had a significant effect on the mind's semantic networks, or how words and concepts are stored in relation to each other.

“These findings are relevant for the renewed exploration of psychedelic psychotherapy, which are being developed for depression and other mental illnesses," said Neiloufar Family, a researcher at the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany and leader of the study, in a statement.

"The effects of LSD on language can result in a cascade of associations that allow quicker access to far away concepts stored in the mind. Results showed that while LSD does not affect reaction times, people under LSD made more mistakes that were similar in meaning to the pictures they saw.”

Anyone that has taken a hit of acid knows that the drug can bend reality in subtle ways, blurring the line between what’s real and what’s not. The picture-naming exercise showed that the drug can make semantic network activation stronger—i.e. allow a person to access more and varied associations, thoughts, and concepts in the mind.

For example, when study participants were shown a photo of a car when induced, they would accidentally say that it was a train or bus. This allows researchers to better understand the relationship between LSD, words, and concepts.

“Combining picture naming or priming paradigms with activation of particular neuronal pathways allows us to explore the role of particular neurotransmitters in modulating lexical retrieval, which can be informative about current theories of language production,” say the researchers.

Family contends that “inducing a hyper-associative state may have implications for the enhancement of creativity.” This validates the belief that many writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers have held for years—expanding the mind allows your creativity to run wild. 

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.