2019 AMI Online Salon

What a long trip! The science behind the notorious potency of LSD

Project Details

  • Company/Institution: University of Toronto

  • Entrant Name: Mona Li

  • Membership Type: Student Submission

  • Other Contributors:                  

  • Address: Toronto, Canada

  • Client: Faculty supervisor: Derek Ng

  • Medium/software used: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, UCSF Chimera

  • Final presentation format: Two-page spread in a popular science magazine

  • Primary Audience: Educated lay audience

Project Description

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has an unusually long action time compared to other hallucinogenic drugs. I created this two-page spread for a popular science magazine (e.g., Scientific American) to explain the relationship between LSD’s molecular structure and its ability to keep serotonin 2B receptors activated for long periods of time. This illustration includes LSD’s journey from oral administration to the recruitment of ß-arrestin after binding serotonin 2B receptors. To elucidate the molecular interactions responsible for LSD’s long action time, I depicted the relevant structures in the LSD-serotonin-2B-receptor complex using both high-complexity surface representations and lower-complexity ribbon/stick representations. In addition, I utilized a bold and playful rendering style to pique interest in lay readers while keeping to the theme of bright, colorful imagery associated with hallucinogenic drugs.