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When you use psychedelics like LSD, magic truffles or DMT, you can't escape it: visuals, or visual effects. Depending on how strong your trip is, everything becomes more colourful, you see extra patterns or entities or the world around you even becomes unrecognisable. But where do these visuals actually come from? How is it that your brain produces such visual effects when you trip?

The many effects of a trip: from visuals to ego-death

When you go spiritual tripping, you can reach different trip levels. There are 5 trip levels. From more colours to being completely blown away and blasted. At the highest level you find ego-death: complete disconnection from yourself and your identity. For example, you get an out-of-body experience and no longer see the world from yourself, but from above. Visual effects, or visuals, are one or two levels lower. Want to read more about trip levels? Read all about them in this article on the different levels of a truffle trip.

When do I get visual effects in my trip?

Which level you reach and whether you will see visuals depends mainly on the dosage, but also on what you take. And don't forget the bit about 'how' and 'why'. If you have chosen a pleasant and beautiful environment to trip in, that helps enormously in generating visual effects. At least: fine and colourful visual effects. With your eyes closed or in pitch darkness, your brain can still present you with wild visuals. These are called closed-eye visuals, by the way. For these visuals, you have no 'input' from the world around you. Everything you see with your eyes closed comes 100% from the bowels of your own brain!

Where do visuals come from when I trip?

To know where visual effects during tripping come from, first a little explanation of how trip drugs work. Drugs like mushrooms and LSD affect the central nervous system, among other things. And thus the neurotransmitters in your brain; the messenger juggernauts on a microscopic level. Examples of neurotransmitters released during tripping are serotonin (the happiness hormone) and dopamine (the reward chemical). The effects can be seen in your energy levels and mood. But you may also feel more connected. In addition, changes occur in terms of information processing. Among others, in the visual cortex. This part of your brain is responsible for processing visual information. And so you can start seeing all sorts of things that are not normally there.

Types of visuals: from patterns to unusual perceptions

The classic visuals that many people see when they start tripping are patterns and geometric objects. For example, there is a kind of grid over your world in which holograms of circles, triangles and other shapes spin around. Then there are another kind of visual effects that occur during tripping: objects that are not really there. Gnomes, animals, people or aliens: it can all appear. These visuals are caused by disrupted activity in other parts of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. These areas are involved in processing emotions and forming memories. During tripping, these areas can become hyperactive, and you may start seeing things you wouldn't see in a sober state.

Why do you see what you see in a trip?

You may have noticed that you see things you have 'a thing' about. Think of an intense trip in which that one family member appears. Or you see the same creature from a previous trip again. Moreover, such sightings almost always include recognisable objects and creatures. At low doses of a psychedelic drug, the visual world is reliably distorted. With higher doses, it takes your brain more effort to process information. Still, you will always be able to recognise plenty of elements. Whatever trip level you are on: you may see a fantasy world, but you can recognise and name all sorts of things. This is probably because the parts of the brain that become overactive during tripping like to try to make something of the world around you. And so it draws on your memories and what you know about the world. This creates visual effects such as perceptions that may not be 'real' but feel that way at the time.

Playing with visual effects: tips

A fun thing for you to do is to discover how you can create your most beautiful visual effects during your trip. You can start experimenting with the following tips:

  • eyes open versus eyes closed
  • colourful environment and lights or dark room
  • indoors or outdoors tripping
  • choose in advance activities you want to do during your trip
  • play with the music during your trip
  • collect objects you want to look at or play with during your trip.