LSD causes congenitally blind man to experience synesthesia-like hallucinations

The psychedelic drug LSD induced synesthesia-like experiences in an individual who was born without vision, a condition known as congenital blindness, according to a new case study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

Synesthesia occurs when a person experiences an overlap in their senses. A person experiencing synesthesia might be able to taste colors or see sounds. There have been reports about LSD causing synesthesia ever since the psychedelic drug was first discovered by Albert Hofmann in the 1930s.

The new case study is the first qualitative account of LSD use in a congenitally blind person to be published in a scientific journal

The subject of the case study was born two-months premature in 1948 and suffered permanent blindness because of an over-saturation of oxygen at birth.

His love of music led him to become a professional keyboard player, singer and entertainer for several years. He had regularly taken LSD, along with other drugs like marijuana and magic mushrooms, before speaking to researchers about his experiences.

LSD never caused him to experience visual hallucinations, but he said that using psychedelic drugs amplified his experience of sound, touch and smell.

“Every time I did acid, I experienced something new and spectacular. Obviously through the senses which are available to me! I never had any visual images come to me. I can’t see or imagine what light or dark might look like. With LSD and cannabis though, I experienced so much through my hearing, touch and emotions that it was already enough for me to take!”

He also reported that listening to music could induce sensory sensations.

“During my psychedelic experiences, whenever I listened to music, I felt as if I was immersed in the most beautiful waterfall ever. The episode of the waterfall was the nearest I ever came to experiencing anything like synesthesia. The music of Bach’s third Brandenburg concerto brought on the waterfall effect.”

“The sounds coming from songs I would normally listen to became three dimensional, deep and delayed. It seemed that music began coming apart and unravelling.”

Psychedelic drugs also altered his tactile sensations and perception of time. He told researchers he had experienced temporary aphasia, meaning the loss of ability to understand speech, under the influence of LSD. His dreams also became more intense.

“My dreams have always been very vivid in the past, but when I was under the influence of LSD, I would occasionally find myself dreaming in prose… I couldn’t always sleep, but if I did my dreams would be extremely detailed, sometimes even in very wordy Shakespearian language, often lasting longer than my normal dreams”

However, he told the researchers that he eventually stopped using psychedelic drugs because he felt he was becoming too introverted and paranoid.

The case report, “Synesthetic hallucinations induced by psychedelic drugs in a congenitally blind man“, was authored by Sara Dell’Erba, David J.Brown and Michael J.Proulx.