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The Electric-Kool Aid Language Test

Is Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds? Or is Luke in the ground covered in dirt? You’re probably saying to yourself, “that got pretty #dark pretty fast, is this about a bad acid trip?” Actually, no it’s not. This is about how our brain processes language when under the influence of LSD. And it’s safe to say that it’s not quite like taking out ice-cream scoops, but rather melting different ice-cream flavors to make it easier to taste them all at once. Sounds pretty groovy, right?

It’s no secret that artists and writers in particular have used LSD to unleash the creative within themselves. Authors from the Beat Generation often experimented with acid and used language to describe what was happening in their minds.

In a recent study published in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, David Nutt, professor of neuropsychopharmacology at London’s Imperial College, led a study exploring the connection between LSD and language. In the study, ten participants were gathered on two separate occasions. The first time around, each participant was given a dose of LSD and on the second visit, they were administered a placebo. “Results showed that while LSD does not affect reaction times, people under the influence of LSD made more mistakes that were similar in meaning to the pictures they saw,” said lead author Dr. Neiloufar Family. For example, participants who were under the effects of the substance would be more likely to say “bus” or “train” when shown an image of a car, compared to participants who had taken the placebo. These types of lexical associations show us how LSD affects semantic networks in the brain and how it creates a sort of “thesaurus” effect.

In other words, when you see an image of a cat, you might think “pet” or “feline.”  If you’ve taken LSD and you see the same image, that might stretch farther and you might think “fur” or “tiger” or “Grumpy Cat,” if you follow meme culture. “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,” said Family. This implies that LSD may in fact ‘expand your mind’ and may even be a useful tool to help reach into its unseen depths (think psychoanalysis) by altering the breadth of flexibility and cognition, which in turn could have very important implications for the treatment of amnesia or other memory related disorders.

But before we get too far into this, and start picturing tangerine trees and marmalade skies, or girls with kaleidoscope eyes, remember that you can always count on our expert team of translators (not under the influence during working hours) for top notch translation services.