OPEN Foundation

F. Müller

Spontaneous and deliberate creative cognition during and after psilocybin exposure

Abstract

Creativity is an essential cognitive ability linked to all areas of our everyday functioning. Thus, finding a way to enhance it is of broad interest. A large number of anecdotal reports suggest that the consumption of psychedelic drugs can enhance creative thinking; however, scientific evidence is lacking. Following a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group design, we demonstrated that psilocybin (0.17 mg/kg) induced a time- and construct-related differentiation of effects on creative thinking. Acutely, psilocybin increased ratings of (spontaneous) creative insights, while decreasing (deliberate) task-based creativity. Seven days after psilocybin, number of novel ideas increased. Furthermore, we utilized an ultrahigh field multimodal brain imaging approach, and found that acute and persisting effects were predicted by within- and between-network connectivity of the default mode network. Findings add some support to historical claims that psychedelics can influence aspects of the creative process, potentially indicating them as a tool to investigate creativity and subsequent underlying neural mechanisms. Trial NL6007; psilocybin as a tool for enhanced cognitive flexibility; https://www.trialregister.nl/trial/6007 .

Mason, N. L., Kuypers, K., Reckweg, J. T., Müller, F., Tse, D., Da Rios, B., Toennes, S. W., Stiers, P., Feilding, A., & Ramaekers, J. G. (2021). Spontaneous and deliberate creative cognition during and after psilocybin exposure. Translational psychiatry, 11(1), 209. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-021-01335-5

Link to full text

MDMA-induced changes in within-network connectivity contradict the specificity of these alterations for the effects of serotonergic hallucinogens

Abstract

It has been reported that serotonergic hallucinogens like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) induce decreases in functional connectivity within various resting-state networks. These alterations were seen as reflecting specific neuronal effects of hallucinogens and it was speculated that these shifts in connectivity underlie the characteristic subjective drug effects. In this study, we test the hypothesis that these alterations are not specific for hallucinogens but that they can be induced by monoaminergic stimulation using the non-hallucinogenic serotonin-norepinephrine-dopamine releasing agent 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover design, 45 healthy participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) following oral administration of 125 mg MDMA. The networks under question were identified using independent component analysis (ICA) and were tested with regard to within-network connectivity. Results revealed decreased connectivity within two visual networks, the default mode network (DMN), and the sensorimotor network. These findings were almost identical to the results previously reported for hallucinogenic drugs. Therefore, our results suggest that monoaminergic substances can induce widespread changes in within-network connectivity in the absence of marked subjective drug effects. This contradicts the notion that these alterations can be regarded as specific for serotonergic hallucinogens. However, changes within the DMN might explain antidepressants effects of some of these substances.

Müller, F., Holze, F., Dolder, P., Ley, L., Vizeli, P., Soltermann, A., Liechti, M. E., & Borgwardt, S. (2021). MDMA-induced changes in within-network connectivity contradict the specificity of these alterations for the effects of serotonergic hallucinogens. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 46(3), 545–553. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-020-00906-2

Link to full text

Acute dose-dependent effects of lysergic acid diethylamide in a double-blind placebo-controlled study in healthy subjects

Abstract

Growing interest has been seen in using lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in psychiatric research and therapy. However, no modern studies have evaluated subjective and autonomic effects of different and pharmaceutically well-defined doses of LSD. We used a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover design in 16 healthy subjects (eight women, eight men) who underwent six 25 h sessions and received placebo, LSD (25, 50, 100, and 200 µg), and 200 µg LSD 1 h after administration of the serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine-2A (5-HT2A) receptor antagonist ketanserin (40 mg). Test days were separated by at least 10 days. Outcome measures included self-rating scales that evaluated subjective effects, autonomic effects, adverse effects, plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels, and pharmacokinetics up to 24 h. The pharmacokinetic-subjective response relationship was evaluated. LSD showed dose-proportional pharmacokinetics and first-order elimination and dose-dependently induced subjective responses starting at the 25 µg dose. A ceiling effect was observed for good drug effects at 100 µg. The 200 µg dose of LSD induced greater ego dissolution than the 100 µg dose and induced significant anxiety. The average duration of subjective effects increased from 6.7 to 11 h with increasing doses of 25-200 µg. LSD moderately increased blood pressure and heart rate. Ketanserin effectively prevented the response to 200 µg LSD. The LSD dose-response curve showed a ceiling effect for subjective good effects, and ego dissolution and anxiety increased further at a dose above 100 µg. These results may assist with dose finding for future LSD research. The full psychedelic effects of LSD are primarily mediated by serotonin 5-HT2A receptor activation.

Holze, F., Vizeli, P., Ley, L., Müller, F., Dolder, P., Stocker, M., Duthaler, U., Varghese, N., Eckert, A., Borgwardt, S., & Liechti, M. E. (2021). Acute dose-dependent effects of lysergic acid diethylamide in a double-blind placebo-controlled study in healthy subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 46(3), 537–544. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-020-00883-6

Link to full text

Me, myself, bye: regional alterations in glutamate and the experience of ego dissolution with psilocybin

Abstract

There is growing interest in the therapeutic utility of psychedelic substances, like psilocybin, for disorders characterized by distortions of the self-experience, like depression. Accumulating preclinical evidence emphasizes the role of the glutamate system in the acute action of the drug on brain and behavior; however this has never been tested in humans. Following a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group design, we utilized an ultra-high field multimodal brain imaging approach and demonstrated that psilocybin (0.17 mg/kg) induced region-dependent alterations in glutamate, which predicted distortions in the subjective experience of one’s self (ego dissolution). Whereas higher levels of medial prefrontal cortical glutamate were associated with negatively experienced ego dissolution, lower levels in hippocampal glutamate were associated with positively experienced ego dissolution. Such findings provide further insights into the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of the psychedelic, as well as the baseline, state. Importantly, they may also provide a neurochemical basis for therapeutic effects as witnessed in ongoing clinical trials.

Mason, N. L., Kuypers, K. P. C., Müller, F., Reckweg, J., Tse, D. H. Y., Toennes, S. W., … & Ramaekers, J. G. (2020). Me, myself, bye: regional alterations in glutamate and the experience of ego dissolution with psilocybin. Neuropsychopharmacology, 1-11., https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-020-0718-8
Link to full text

Distinct acute effects of LSD, MDMA, and D-amphetamine in healthy subjects.

Abstract

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a classic psychedelic, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is an empathogen, and D-amphetamine is a classic stimulant. All three substances are used recreationally. LSD and MDMA are being investigated as medications to assist psychotherapy, and D-amphetamine is used for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. All three substances induce distinct acute subjective effects. However, differences in acute responses to these prototypical psychoactive substances have not been characterized in a controlled study. We investigated the acute autonomic, subjective, and endocrine effects of single doses of LSD (0.1 mg), MDMA (125 mg), D-amphetamine (40 mg), and placebo in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study in 28 healthy subjects. All of the substances produced comparable increases in hemodynamic effects, body temperature, and pupil size, indicating equivalent autonomic responses at the doses used. LSD and MDMA increased heart rate more than D-amphetamine, and D-amphetamine increased blood pressure more than LSD and MDMA. LSD induced significantly higher ratings on the 5 Dimensions of Altered States of Consciousness scale and Mystical Experience Questionnaire than MDMA and D-amphetamine. LSD also produced greater subjective drug effects, ego dissolution, introversion, emotional excitation, anxiety, and inactivity than MDMA and D-amphetamine. LSD also induced greater impairments in subjective ratings of concentration, sense of time, and speed of thinking compared with MDMA and D-amphetamine. MDMA produced greater ratings of good drug effects, liking, high, and ego dissolution compared with D-amphetamine. D-Amphetamine increased ratings of activity and concentration compared with LSD. MDMA but not LSD or D-amphetamine increased plasma concentrations of oxytocin. None of the substances altered plasma concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. These results indicate clearly distinct acute effects of LSD, MDMA, and D-amphetamine and may assist the dose-finding in substance-assisted psychotherapy research.
Holze, F., Vizeli, P., Müller, F., Ley, L., Duerig, R., Varghese, N., … & Liechti, M. E. (2019). Distinct acute effects of LSD, MDMA, and d-amphetamine in healthy subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology, 1-11., https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-019-0569-3
Link to full text

Acute effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on resting brain function.

Abstract

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a potent hallucinogenic substance that was extensively investigated by psychiatrists during the 1950s and 1960s. Researchers were interested in the unique effects induced by this substance, some of which resemble symptoms seen in schizophrenia. Moreover, during that period LSD was studied and used for the treatment of several mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, addiction and personality disorders. Despite this long history of research, how LSD induces its specific effects on a neuronal level has been relatively unclear. In recent years there has been a revival of research in hallucinogenic drugs and their possible clinical applications. These contemporary studies in the UK and Switzerland include neuroimaging studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In this review, we collect and interpret these recent neuroimaging findings. Overall, previous results across studies indicate that LSD administration is associated with extensive alterations in functional brain connectivity, measuring the correlated activities between different brain regions. The studies mostly reported increases in connectivity between regions and, more specifically, consistently found increased connectivity within the thalamocortical system. These latter observations are in agreement with models proposing that hallucinogenic drugs exert their effects by inhibiting cerebral filtering of external and internal data. However, studies also face several limitations, including potential biases of neuroimaging measurements.
Müller, F., & Borgwardt, S. (2019). Acute effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on resting brain function. Swiss Medical Weekly149(3940)., https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2019.20124
Link to full text

Pharmacokinetics and subjective effects of a novel oral LSD formulation in healthy subjects.

Abstract

AIMS:

The aim of the present study was to characterize the pharmacokinetics and exposure-subjective response relationship of a novel oral solution of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) that was developed for clinical use in research and patients.

METHOD:

LSD (100 μg) was administered in 27 healthy subjects using a placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over design. Plasma levels of LSD, nor-LSD, and 2-oxo-3-hydroxy-LSD (O-H-LSD) and subjective drug effects were assessed up to 11.5 hours.

RESULTS:

First-order elimination kinetics were observed for LSD. Geometric mean maximum concentration (Cmax ) values (range) of 1.7 (1.0-2.9) ng/mL were reached at a tmax (range) of 1.7 (1.0-3.4) hours after drug administration. The plasma half-life (t1/2 ) was 3.6 (2.4-7.3) hours. The AUC was 13 (7.1-28) ng·h/mL. No differences in these pharmacokinetic parameters were found between male and female subjects. Plasma O-H-LSD but not nor-LSD (< 0.01 ng/mL) concentrations could be quantified in all subjects. Geometric mean O-H-LSD Cmax values (range) of 0.11 (0.07-0.19) ng/mL were reached at a tmax (range) of 5 (3.2-8) hours. The t1/2 and AUC values of O-H-LSD were 5.2 (2.6-21) hours and 1.7 (0.85-4.3) ng·h/mL, respectively. The subjective effects of LSD lasted (mean ± SD) for 8.5 ± 2.0 hours (range: 5.3-12.8 h), and peak effects were reached 2.5 ± 0.6 hours (range 1.6-4.3 h) after drug administration. EC50 values were 1.0 ± 0.5 ng/mL and 1.9 ± 1.0 ng/mL for “good” and “bad” subjective drug effects, respectively.

CONCLUSION:

The present study characterized the pharmacokinetics of LSD and its main metabolite O-H-LSD. The subjective effects of LSD were closely associated with changes in plasma concentrations over time.

Holze, F., Duthaler, U., Vizeli, P., Müller, F., Borgwardt, S., & Liechti, M. E. (2019). Pharmacokinetics and subjective effects of a novel oral LSD formulation in healthy subjects. British journal of clinical pharmacology., 10.1111/bcp.13918
Link to full text

Neuroimaging of chronic MDMA (“ecstasy”) effects: A meta-analysis

Abstract

In this meta-analysis, we aimed to assess the evidence from neuroimaging studies for chronic alterations in the brains of MDMA users. The databases PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science were searched for studies published from inception to August 24, 2018, without any language restriction. Sixteen independent studies comprising 356 MDMA users and 311 controls were included. Of these, five studies investigated frontal and occipital N-acetylaspartate/creatine and myo-inositol/creatine ratios, three studies assessed basal ganglia blood flow and ten studies investigated serotonin transporter (SERT) density in various regions. We found significantly decreased SERT density in eight of 13 investigated regions. Meta-regression indicated a positive association with abstinence, but none with lifetime episodes of use. Therefore, other variables (such as doses taken per occasion) might be more important determinants. Positive associations between time of abstinence and SERT density might indicate that these alterations are reversible to some extent. Furthermore, there were no significant differences between user and control groups in terms of neurochemical ratios in the frontal and occipital lobes and blood flow in the basal ganglia. Overall, MDMA user groups showed heavy use patterns and study quality was poor.

Müller, F., Brändle, R., Liechti, M. E., & Borgwardt, S. (2018). Neuroimaging of chronic MDMA (“ecstasy”) effects: A meta-analysis of the literature. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews., 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.11.004
Link to full text

Neuroimaging of chronic MDMA ("ecstasy") effects: A meta-analysis

Abstract

In this meta-analysis, we aimed to assess the evidence from neuroimaging studies for chronic alterations in the brains of MDMA users. The databases PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science were searched for studies published from inception to August 24, 2018, without any language restriction. Sixteen independent studies comprising 356 MDMA users and 311 controls were included. Of these, five studies investigated frontal and occipital N-acetylaspartate/creatine and myo-inositol/creatine ratios, three studies assessed basal ganglia blood flow and ten studies investigated serotonin transporter (SERT) density in various regions. We found significantly decreased SERT density in eight of 13 investigated regions. Meta-regression indicated a positive association with abstinence, but none with lifetime episodes of use. Therefore, other variables (such as doses taken per occasion) might be more important determinants. Positive associations between time of abstinence and SERT density might indicate that these alterations are reversible to some extent. Furthermore, there were no significant differences between user and control groups in terms of neurochemical ratios in the frontal and occipital lobes and blood flow in the basal ganglia. Overall, MDMA user groups showed heavy use patterns and study quality was poor.

Müller, F., Brändle, R., Liechti, M. E., & Borgwardt, S. (2018). Neuroimaging of chronic MDMA (“ecstasy”) effects: A meta-analysis of the literature. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews., 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.11.004
Link to full text

Advances and challenges in neuroimaging studies on the effects of serotonergic hallucinogens: Contributions of the resting brain.

Abstract

The effects of hallucinogenic drugs on the human brain have been studied since the earliest days of neuroimaging in the 1990s. However, approaches are often hard to compare and results are heterogeneous. In this chapter, we summarize studies investigating the effects of hallucinogens on the resting brain, with a special emphasis on replicability and limitations. In previous studies, similarities were observed between psilocybin, LSD, and ayahuasca, with respect to decreases in cerebral blood flow and increases in global functional connectivity in the precuneus and thalamus. Additionally, LSD consistently decreased functional connectivity within distinct resting state networks. Little convergence was observed for connectivity between networks and for blood flow in other brain regions. Although these studies are limited by small sample sizes and might be biased by unspecific drug effects on physiological parameters and the vascular system, current results indicate that neuroimaging could be a useful tool to elucidate the neuronal correlates of hallucinogenic effects.
Müller, F., Liechti, M. E., Lang, U. E., Borgwardt, S., Wilson, M. R., Webb, A., … & Lutz, K. (2018). Advances and challenges in neuroimaging studies on the effects of serotonergic hallucinogens: Contributions of the resting brain. Progress in brain research242, 159-177. 10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.08.004
Link to full text