The influence of microdosing on cognitive functions

How does microdosing affect cognitive functions? Many people are positive about the effects of microdosing. It can affect many different areas, emotionally and physically, as well as your cognitive functions.

This involves taking small amounts of a psychedelic drug, such as magic mushrooms, truffles or LSD. These minuscule amounts have no mind-altering effects. Nevertheless, people indicate that they do notice a positive influence. In this text we will discuss the impact of microdosing on cognitive functions.

What are cognitive functions?

Microdosing can affect your cognitive functioning in several ways. By cognitive functions and skills we mean:

  • Memory
  • Recording and processing information
  • Using language
  • Troubleshooting
  • Reasoning
  • Math
  • Concentrate
  • Making plans
  • Orientation ability
  • Imagination

Microdosing studies

Harriet de Wit is an experimental psychologist at the University of Chicago. She is one of the first scientists to take it upon herself to research the effects of microdosing. She is currently conducting one of the first double-blind studies on the influence of microdoses of LSD on the emotional well-being of people who have a depressed mood. She would like to find out if microdosing is just hype or if there is more to it. However, the study is not yet complete and the data are not yet available.

Chemical neuroscientist David Olson is studying the effects of psychedelics in rats at the University of California. He gave rats a microdose of DMT (the same psychedelic substance found in Ayahuasca). They were treated for two weeks to see, among other things, the effect on their cognitive functions. The tests were done during the two-day rest between doses. The study showed that in the areas of cognition and social behavior, no limitations or improvements were seen. This is striking because it contradicts people’s user experiences.

Another research team collected the data of hundreds of participants they had recruited via Reddit. Participants had to complete a very comprehensive questionnaire, which covered nine areas such as personality, mental health and well-being. Each day they noted how they felt and whether they had taken a microdose. At the end of a six-week test period, they completed the same test again.

The data showed that participants scored better than normal on the days they microdosed. This was evident in a variety of areas, including cognition (concentration and productivity). It was noticeable that especially in these two areas, there was still improvement in the days that followed, i.e. on the days that they did not take the microdose. This is consistent with reports that the effect of microdosing lasts for several days.

Research in the Netherlands into the influence of microdosing

Research into microdosing is also taking place in the Netherlands. At Leiden University, Luisa Prochazkova is conducting a study on microdosing: Exploring the effect of microdosing psychedelics on creativity in an open-label natural setting. The report was published in 2018.

During the study, Prochazkova and her colleagues wanted to investigate how a microdose of dried truffles would affect the cognitive functions of 36 participants. It is the first study to investigate the effect of small amounts of psychedelics on three cognitive areas: convergent thinking (systematic thinking, focused on a solution, making a conscious choice), divergent thinking (creative thinking, in a spontaneous and non-linear way) and fluid intelligence (flexible thinking, logical reasoning, problem solving in new situations).

Prochazkova and her colleagues reported that the results seem to indicate a positive effect. Consuming a microdose helps participants think out-of-the-box, they say. This supports the assumption that microdosing improves divergent thinking. But convergent thinking had also improved. Fluid intelligence did not seem to be affected by microdosing.

Based on this initial data, the studies seem to confirm that microdosing of psychedelics can be used to support your cognitive abilities. It is hoped that more studies will be done to get clearer what the effect is on our thinking ability.