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Set and Setting: A Randomized Study of Different Musical Genres in Supporting Psychedelic Therapy

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Abstract

Mounting evidence supports the serotonin 2A receptor agonist psilocybin as a psychiatric pharmacotherapy. Little research has experimentally examined how session “set and setting” impacts subjective and therapeutic effects. We analyzed the effects of the musical genre played during sessions of a psilocybin study for tobacco smoking cessation. Participants (N = 10) received psilocybin (20-30 mg/70 kg) in two sessions, each with a different musical genre (Western classical versus overtone-based), with the order counterbalanced. Participants chose one genre for a third session (30 mg/70 kg). Mystical experiences scores tended to be higher in overtone-based sessions than in Western classical sessions. Six of ten participants chose the overtone-based music for a third session. Biologically confirmed smoking abstinence was similar based on musical choice, with a slight benefit for participants choosing the overtone-based playlist (66.7% versus 50%). These data call into question whether Western classical music typically used in psychedelic therapy holds a unique benefit. Broadly, we call for experimentally examining session components toward optimizing psychedelic therapeutic protocols.

Strickland, J. C., Garcia-Romeu, A., & Johnson, M. W. (2020). Set and Setting: A Randomized Study of Different Musical Genres in Supporting Psychedelic Therapy. ACS pharmacology & translational science, 4(2), 472–478. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsptsci.0c00187

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