Researchers at Imperial College London have gotten the ball (and their test subjects) rolling for MDMA research. The bodily effects of the drug, most often called ecstasy, are not yet well explored by the scientific community. Recently, Graham Lawton, a dogged New Scientist reporter, participated in the ICP study that seeks to venture into that largely uncharted territory. And while he did experience loud, thumping noises, they came from an fMRI machine—instead of a DJ wearing leopard print pants and twirling glow sticks.

Lawton was handed a pill; it was either MDMA or vitamin C (the placebo). He swallowed the former, got his noggin scanned, and then avoided his psychological exam by chatting up the white coats and staring at “a purple door throbbing before [his] eyes.”

So far, the study has peeked into 23 brains. The goal is to determine whether MDMA can make bad memories less painful and overwhelming—and therefore more fruitfully accessed.

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