How to Pick Music for People on LSD, From a Scientist Whose Job That Is

The idea of incorporating music into psychedelic therapy isn’t new; it was a point of great interest to music therapists in the 60s. But Kaelen is trying to ground it in a solid scientific framework.

He explained that the need to include music in these trials is borne directly from the rising interest in studying psychedelic drugs and considering how they could be used therapeutically: One of the main purposes of the Imperial College team’s research with these substances is to explore how they might be used to help treat mental illnesses such as depression.

In recent trials, it’s been Kaelen’s responsibility (among other things) to design the perfect playlist for a scientifically-sanctioned psychedelic trip with strict research requirements—a task that requires both a creative sensibility and a respect for the rigorous framework of scientific procedures.

Mendel Kaelen, a PhD student in neuroscience at Imperial College, has led several studies investigating the combined influence of music and psychedelic drugs in human trials. One of the challenges? Choosing the music.

Since its 60s counterculture heyday, LSD has been closely associated with music. But it’s not just artistic proclivities that link them: Researchers have found that listening to music can actually affect the LSD experience on a neurological level—and they have brain scans to back it.

 

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