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The chemical induction of synaesthesia

The chemical induction of synaesthesia

Luke, David ORCID: 0000-0003-2141-2453, Lungu, Laura, Friday, Ross and Terhune, Devin (2022) The chemical induction of synaesthesia. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental:e2832. pp. 1-13. ISSN 0885-6222 (Print), 1099-1077 (Online) (doi:

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Objective: Preliminary research suggests that experiences resembling synaesthesia are frequently reported under the influence of a diverse range of chemical substances although the incidence, chemical specificity, and characteristics of these effects are poorly understood.
Methods: Here we surveyed recreational drug users and self-reported developmental synaesthetes regarding their use of 28 psychoactive drugs from 12 different drug classes and whether they had experienced synaesthesia under the influence of these substances.
Results: The drug class of tryptamines exhibited the highest incidence rates of drug-induced synaesthesia in controls and induction rates of novel forms of synaesthesia in developmental synaesthetes. Induction incidence rates in controls were strongly correlated with the corresponding induction and enhancement rates in developmental synaesthetes. In addition, the use of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was the strongest predictor of drug-induced synaesthesia in both controls and developmental synaesthetes. Clear evidence was observed for a clustering of synaesthesia-induction rates as a function of drug class in both groups, denoting non-random incidence rates within drug classes. Sound-colour synaesthesia was the most commonly observed type of induced synaesthesia. Further analyses suggest the presence of synaesthesia-prone individuals, who were more likely to experience drug-induced synaesthesia with multiple drugs.
Conclusions: These data corroborate the hypothesized link between drug-induced synaesthesia and serotoninergic activity, but also suggest the possibility of alternative neurochemical pathways involved in the induction of synaesthesia. They further imply that the induction and modulation of synaesthesia in controls and developmental synaesthetes share overlapping mechanisms and that certain individuals may be more susceptible to experiencing induced synaesthesia with different drugs.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: consciousness, psychedelic, perception, drug, synaesthesia, cognition
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RS Pharmacy and materia medica
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Institute for Lifecourse Development
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Institute for Lifecourse Development > Centre for Mental Health
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Human Sciences (HUM)
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Last Modified: 20 Jan 2022 13:17

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