A new wave of medical interest surrounds the potential value of psychedelic drugs, spurred by a through, sensible review of a once-taboo subject by Michael Pollen in his first-person account, How to Change Your Mind. For hallucinogens to resurface was a “come out, come out, wherever you are” proposition. LSD, magic mushrooms, and mescaline had their day in the Sixties and came out of it badly tarnished. Leaving aside various anti-drug laws largely prompted by fear, a medical researcher who looked into psychedelics would face censure, perhaps career-ending censure. At the very least such research wasn’t taken very seriously.
The general view of psychedelics has been that they are potentially unsafe and medically useless. What has changed this conventional wisdom is deeper knowledge of the brain. In particular, the area of the brain that seems to cause the mind-altering effect of LSD and company is the so-called Default Mode Network (DMN), a collection of regions in the higher brain that organizes and regulates a wide range of brain activity. The DMN filters out the flood of information that bombards the brain every day, selecting and controlling our response to the world.