New study aims to create the perfect playlist for people on LSD
It’s long been suggested that psychedelic drug use could be adapted for therapeutic uses, and a slew of recent studies have attempted to prove just how it can work. In a recent interview with Motherboard, Mendel Kaelen, a PhD student in neuroscience at Imperial College, discussed the implications music can have on that experience and just how much deliberation goes into selecting the right soundtrack to facilitate psychological breakthroughs.
Kaelen’s playlist was designed as a way to observe how the brain responds to different music while under the influence of psychedelics, specifically LSD. A group of songs are focus grouped and pared down to those that suit specific parts of the psychological journey of the hallucinogenic drug.
“For all these different phases within the playlist, different needs are there to be met that the music can help with,” said Kaelen. The narrative of the list needs to reflect the changing experiences of the drugs physiological effect in the body from onset, through the peak, and then the comedown.
For the initial phase of the trail, when subjects tend to be nervous, Kaelen selected music that would calm and reassure. In what Kaelen calls “a pendulum effect,” the music undulates between varying emotional intensities during the peak of the experience.
Kaelen describes a huge part of the challenge as finding music that is affecting but not too familiar. Familiar tracks, of course, trigger pre-existing connections to moods and experience that affect the outcome of the experiment. Though the playlist is still under wraps as part of an ongoing study, Kaelen’s choices include ambient and neo-classical pieces by Brian Eno, Greg Haines, and Ólafur Arnalds.