OPEN Foundation

Salvia / Salvinorin A

The Acute Effects of the Atypical Dissociative Hallucinogen Salvinorin A on Functional Connectivity in the Human Brain

Abstract

Salvinorin A (SA) is a κ-opioid receptor agonist and atypical dissociative hallucinogen found in Salvia divinorum. Despite the resurgence of hallucinogen studies, the effects of κ-opioid agonists on human brain function are not well-understood. This placebo-controlled, within-subject study used functional magnetic resonance imaging for the first time to explore the effects of inhaled SA on strength, variability, and entropy of functional connectivity (static, dynamic, and entropic functional connectivity, respectively, or sFC, dFC, and eFC). SA tended to decrease within-network sFC but increase between-network sFC, with the most prominent effect being attenuation of the default mode network (DMN) during the first half of a 20-min scan (i.e., during peak effects). SA reduced brainwide dFC but increased brainwide eFC, though only the former effect survived multiple comparison corrections. Finally, using connectome-based classification, most models trained on dFC network interactions could accurately classify the first half of SA scans. In contrast, few models trained on within- or between-network sFC and eFC performed above chance. Notably, models trained on within-DMN sFC and eFC performed better than models trained on other network interactions. This pattern of SA effects on human brain function is strikingly similar to that of other hallucinogens, necessitating studies of direct comparisons.

Doss, M. K., May, D. G., Johnson, M. W., Clifton, J. M., Hedrick, S. L., Prisinzano, T. E., Griffiths, R. R., & Barrett, F. S. (2020). The Acute Effects of the Atypical Dissociative Hallucinogen Salvinorin A on Functional Connectivity in the Human Brain. Scientific reports, 10(1), 16392. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-73216-8

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Spotlight commentary: REBUS and the anarchic brain

Abstract

In ‘REBUS and the Anarchic Brain: Towards a Unified Model of the Brain Action of Psychedelics’, Carhart-Harris and Friston offer an important analysis of what the predictive processing framework has to offer our understanding of psychedelic experiences, providing an invaluable ground for psychedelic psychiatry. While applauding this, we encourage paying greater attention to contextual factors shaping extreme experiences and their sequalae, and suggest that the authors’ comparisons with certain non-psychedelic altered states may overlook more informative parallels that can be drawn elsewhere. Addressing both points will prove fruitful, ultimately, in identifying the mechanisms of action of greatest interest in psychedelic experiences.
Carhart-Harris, R. L., & Friston, K. J. (2019). REBUS and the anarchic brain: toward a unified model of the brain action of psychedelics. Pharmacological reviews71(3), 316-344., https://doi.org/10.1093/nc/niaa007
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Mystical Experiences in Retrospective Reports of First Times Using a Psychedelic in Finland

Abstract

Despite their acutely inebriating and sometimes unpleasant effects, some people report positive changes in life satisfaction, well-being, or mental health after taking psychedelic drugs. One explanation may be the ability of psychedelics to trigger mystical-type experiences. We examined the validity, reliability, and factor structure of a novel Finnish translation of the Revised Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (MEQ30) among 288 people retrospectively reporting on their first time using a psychedelic. We found evidence for internal consistency reliability and preliminary evidence for criterion and discriminant validity of the Finnish MEQ30. A four-factor structure with factors for mystical qualities, positive mood, transcendence, and ineffability had the best, fair to reasonable fit to the data. MEQ30 scores and having a full mystical experience were highly associated with describing the experience as mystical, spiritual, or religious, and as personally significant, and somewhat associated with the experience being sad or difficult. Mystical experiences were especially associated with positive changes in relationships with nature and oneself and in creativity. Mystical experiences were more common with larger doses. Increasing research suggests mystical-type experiences to relate to positive changes after taking psychedelics. The Finnish MEQ30 is able to tap into relevant information about this aspect of people’s psychedelic experiences.
Kangaslampi, S., Hausen, A., & Rauteenmaa, T. (2020). Mystical Experiences in Retrospective Reports of First Times Using a Psychedelic in Finland. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1767321
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Emotional breakthrough and psychedelics: Validation of the Emotional Breakthrough Inventory

Abstract

Background: Psychedelic therapy is gaining recognition and the nature of the psychedelic experience itself has been found to mediate subsequent long-term psychological changes. Much emphasis has been placed on the occurrence of mystical-type experiences in determining long-term responses to psychedelics yet here we demonstrate the importance of another component, namely: emotional breakthrough.
Methods: Three hundred and seventy-nine participants completed online surveys before and after a planned psychedelic experience. Items pertaining to emotional breakthrough were completed one day after the psychedelic experience, as were items comprising the already validated Mystical Experience Questionnaire and the Challenging Experience Questionnaire. Emotional breakthrough, Mystical Experience Questionnaire and Challenging Experience Questionnaire scores were used to predict changes in well-being (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale) in a subsample of 75 participants with low well-being baseline scores (⩽45).
Results: Factor analyses revealed six emotional breakthrough items with high internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha=0.932) and supported our prior hypothesis that emotional breakthrough is a distinct component of the psychedelic experience. Emotional breakthrough scores behaved dose-dependently, and were higher if the psychedelic was taken with therapeutic planning and intent. Emotional breakthrough, Mystical Experience Questionnaire and Challenging Experience Questionnaire scores combined, significantly predicted subsequent changes in well-being (r=0.45, p=0.0005, n=75), with each scale contributing significant predictive value. Emotional breakthrough and Mystical Experience Questionnaire scores predicted increases in well-being and Challenging Experience Questionnaire scores predicted less increases.
Conclusions: Here we validate a six-item ‘Emotional Breakthrough Inventory’. Emotional breakthrough is an important and distinct component of the acute psychedelic experience that appears to be a key mediator of subsequent longer-term psychological changes. Implications for psychedelic therapy are discussed.

Keywords: Psychedelics; catharsis; emotion; therapy.
Roseman, L., Haijen, E., Idialu-Ikato, K., Kaelen, M., Watts, R., & Carhart-Harris, R. (2019). Emotional breakthrough and psychedelics: validation of the emotional breakthrough inventory. Journal of Psychopharmacology33(9), 1076-1087., https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881119855974
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Classic psychedelics: the special role of the visual system

Abstract

Here, we briefly overview the various aspects of classic serotonergic hallucinogens reported by a number of studies. One of the key hypotheses of our paper is that the visual effects of psychedelics might play a key role in resetting fears. Namely, we especially focus on visual processes because they are among the most prominent features of hallucinogen-induced hallucinations. We hypothesize that our brain has an ancient visual-based (preverbal) intrinsic cognitive process that, during the transient inhibition of top-down convergent and abstract thinking (mediated by the prefrontal cortex) by psychedelics, can neutralize emotional fears of unconscious and conscious life experiences from the past. In these processes, the decreased functional integrity of the self-referencing processes of the default mode network, the modified multisensory integration (linked to bodily self-consciousness and self-awareness), and the modified amygdala activity may also play key roles. Moreover, the emotional reset (elimination of stress-related emotions) by psychedelics may induce psychological changes and overwrite the stress-related neuroepigenetic information of past unconscious and conscious emotional fears.

Császár-Nagy, N., Kapócs, G., & Bókkon, I. (2019). Classic psychedelics: the special role of the visual system. Reviews in the neurosciences.,  10.1515/revneuro-2018-0092
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Salvia divinorum: from recreational hallucinogenic use to analgesic and anti-inflammatory action

Abstract

Salvia divinorum is a herbal plant native to the southwest region of Mexico. Traditional preparations of this plant have been used in illness treatments that converge with inflammatory conditions and pain. Currently, S. divinorum extracts have become popular in several countries as a recreational drug due to its hallucinogenic effects. Its main active component is a diterpene named salvinorin A (SA), a potent naturally occurring hallucinogen with a great affinity to the κ opioid receptors and with allosteric modulation of cannabinoid type 1 receptors. Recent biochemical research has revealed the mechanism of action of the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect of SA at the cellular and molecular level. Nevertheless, because of their short-lasting and hallucinogenic effect, the research has focused on discovering a new analogue of SA that is able to induce analgesia and reduce inflammation with a long-lasting effect but without the hallucinatory component. In this review, we explore the role of S. divinorum, SA and its analogues. We focus mainly on their analgesic and anti-inflammatory roles but also mention their psychoactive properties.

Coffeen, U., & Pellicer, F. (2019). Salvia divinorum: from recreational hallucinogenic use to analgesic and anti-inflammatory action. Journal of pain research12, 1069., 10.2147/JPR.S188619

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Predicting Responses to Psychedelics: A Prospective Study

Abstract

Responses to psychedelics are notoriously difficult to predict, yet significant work is currently underway to assess their therapeutic potential and the level of interest in psychedelics among the general public appears to be increasing. We aimed to collect prospective data in order to improve our ability to predict acute- and longer-term responses to psychedelics. Individuals who planned to take a psychedelic through their own initiative participated in an online survey (www.psychedelicsurvey.com). Traits and variables relating to set, setting and the acute psychedelic experience were measured at five different time points before and after the experience. Principle component and regression methods were used to analyse the data. Sample sizes for the five time points were N = 654, N = 535, N = 379, N = 315, and N = 212 respectively. Psychological well-being was increased 2 weeks after a psychedelic experience and remained at this level after 4 weeks. Higher ratings of a “mystical-type experience” had a positive effect on the change in well-being after a psychedelic experience, whereas the other acute psychedelic experience measures, i.e., “challenging experience” and “visual effects”, did not influence the change in well-being after the psychedelic experience. Having “clear intentions” for the experience was conducive to mystical-type experiences. Having a positive “set” as well as having the experience with intentions related to “recreation” were both found to decrease the likelihood of having a challenging experience. The baseline trait “absorption” and higher drug doses promoted all aspects of the acute experience, i.e., mystical-type and challenging experiences, as well as visual effects. When comparing the relative contribution of different types of variables in explaining the variance in the change in well-being, it seemed that baseline trait variables had the strongest effect on the change in well-being after a psychedelic experience. These results confirm the importance of extra-pharmacological factors in determining responses to a psychedelic. We view this study as an early step towards the development of empirical guidelines that can evolve and improve iteratively with the ultimate purpose of guiding crucial clinical decisions about whether, when, where and how to dose with a psychedelic, thus helping to mitigate risks while maximizing potential benefits in an evidence-based manner.

Haijen, E. C. H. M., Kaelen, M., Roseman, L., Timmermann, C., Russ, S., Nutt, D., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2018). Predicting responses to psychedelics: a prospective study. Frontiers in pharmacology9, 897., 10.3389/fphar.2018.00897
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Dimensions of consciousness and the psychedelic state

Abstract

It has often been suggested in the popular and academic literature that the psychedelic state qualifies as a higher state of consciousness relative to the state of normal waking awareness. This article subjects this proposal to critical scrutiny, focusing on the question of what it would mean for a state of consciousness to be ‘higher’. We begin by considering the contrast between conscious contents and conscious global states. We then review the changes in conscious global state associated with psychedelic drug use, focusing on the effects of two serotonergic hallucinogens: psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide. Limiting our review to findings obtained from lab-based experiments and reported in peer-reviewed journals, we prioritize the more common and reliably induced effects obtained through subjective questionnaires and psychophysical measures. The findings are grouped into three broad categories (sensory perception, cognitive function, and experiences of unity) and demonstrate that although certain aspects of consciousness are improved or enhanced in the psychedelic state, many of the functional capacities that are associated with consciousness are seriously compromised. Psychedelic-induced states of consciousness are indeed remarkable in many ways, but it is inappropriate to regard them as ‘higher’ states of consciousness. The fact that psychedelics affect different aspects of consciousness in fundamentally different ways provides evidence against the unidimensional (or ‘level-based’) view of consciousness, and instead provides strong support for a multidimensional conception of conscious states. The final section of the article considers the implications of this analysis for two prominent theories of consciousness: the Global Workspace Theory and Integrated Information Theory.

Bayne, T., & Carter, O. (2018). Dimensions of consciousness and the psychedelic state. Neuroscience of consciousness2018(1), niy008., 10.1093/nc/niy008
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The Use of Salvia divinorum from a Mazatec Perspective

Abstract

Salvia divinorum is a medicinal and psychoactive plant endemic to the Sierra Madre Oriental of Oaxaca, Mexico. The Mazatec people have been using the leaves for centuries in ceremonies for its psychoactive properties and as a treatment for arthritis and inflammation, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and addictions, among other uses. The active principle of Salvia divinorum, the terpene salvinorin A, is a uniquely potent and highly selective kappa-opioid receptor agonist and, as such, has enormous potential for the development of valuable medications. Among them, the most promising include safe and nonaddictive analgesics, neuroprotectors, short-acting anesthetics that do not depress respiration, antidepressants, anti-inflammatories, medications for the treatment of addiction to stimulants and alcohol, and drugs to treat disorders characterized by alterations in perception. The Mazatec consider Salvia divinorum to be a very powerful plant spirit that should be treated with utmost respect, and the preparation for the ceremony requires a strict regimen. They chew the fresh leaves at night while chanting and praying. In the Western use, the dry leaves are potentiated in extracts to be smoked. A lack of information about the appropriate doses and other considerations while smoking the extracts could result in overwhelming experiences due to the high potency and fast onset of the substance. For the Mazatec, smoking the plant is not the preferred mode. How could we create a bridge between the two perspectives? In this chapter, I will try to clarify the best ways to use Salvia divinorum for medicinal, psychotherapeutic, and inner exploration purposes.

Maqueda, A. E. (2018). The Use of Salvia divinorum from a Mazatec Perspective. Plant Medicines, Healing and Psychedelic Science: Cultural Perspectives, 55-70. 10.1007/978-3-319-76720-8_4
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Salvinorin A preserves cerebral pial artery autoregulation after forebrain ischemia via the PI3K/AKT/cGMP pathway

Abstract

This study aimed to investigate the protective effect of salvinorin A on the cerebral pial artery after forebrain ischemia and explore related mechanisms. Thirty Sprague-Dawley rats received forebrain ischemia for 10 min. The dilation responses of the cerebral pial artery to hypercapnia and hypotension were assessed in rats before and 1 h after ischemia. The ischemia reperfusion (IR) control group received DMSO (1 µL/kg) immediately after ischemia. Two different doses of salvinorin A (10 and 20 µg/kg) were administered following the onset of reperfusion. The 5th, 6th, and 7th groups received salvinorin A (20 µg/kg) and LY294002 (10 µM), L-NAME (10 μM), or norbinaltorphimine (norBIN, 1 μM) after ischemia. The levels of cGMP in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were also measured. The phosphorylation of AKT (p-AKT) was measured in the cerebral cortex by western blot at 24 h post-ischemia. Cell necrosis and apoptosis were examined by hematoxylin-eosin staining (HE) and TUNEL staining, respectively. The motor function of the rats was evaluated at 1, 2, and 5 days post-ischemia. The dilation responses of the cerebral pial artery were significantly impaired after ischemia and were preserved by salvinorin A treatment. In addition, salvinorin A significantly increased the levels of cGMP and p-AKT, suppressed cell necrosis and apoptosis of the cerebral cortex and improved the motor function of the rats. These effects were abolished by LY294002, L-NAME, and norBIN. Salvinorin A preserved cerebral pial artery autoregulation in response to hypercapnia and hypotension via the PI3K/AKT/cGMP pathway.
Dong, H. P., Zhou, W., Ma, X. X., He, Z. Z., & Wang, Z. H. (2018). Salvinorin A preserves cerebral pial artery autoregulation after forebrain ischemia via the PI3K/AKT/cGMP pathway. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research51(5). 10.1590/1414-431X20176714
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