Psychedelic drugs and perception: A narrative review of the first era of research

Jacob S. Aday, Julia R. Wood, Emily K. Bloesch, Christopher C. Davoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Psychedelic drugs are well-known for transiently altering perception, and in particular, for their visual effects. Although scientific interest into the substances' effects on perception increased during the first era of psychedelic research during the early to mid-20th century, there is currently no source where these findings have been synthesized. In addressing this gap, the current narrative review found that psychedelics were examined for their influences across all levels of the visual system (e.g., retinal, cortical, subcortical, simple visual processing, complex imagery, hallucinations). Psychedelics were also shown to affect auditory discrimination/generalization, neural correlates of auditory processing, and led to auditory hallucinations in subsets of participants. Several studies demonstrated that psychedelics can distort representations of body schema and time perception. Concerns regarding methodological standards of this era are a limitation to the findings and are discussed. Collectively, this review preserves and increases the accessibility of the work done by pioneering psychedelic/perception researchers, synthesizes findings, and critically analyzes areas of discrepancy to inform future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-571
Number of pages13
JournalReviews in the Neurosciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • history
  • perception
  • psychedelics
  • review
  • vision


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