OPEN Foundation

F. Vollenweider

LSD and ketanserin and their impact on the human autonomic nervous system

Abstract

The interest in lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has sparked again due to its supposed positive effects on psychopathological conditions. Yet, most research focuses on the actions of LSD on the central nervous system. The interaction with the autonomic nervous system (ANS) has been neglected so far. Therefore, the aim was to assess the effects of LSD and the serotonin 2A receptor antagonist ketanserin on the ANS as assessed by heart rate variability (HRV) measures and their correlation with subjective drug-induced effects in a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial. Thus, ANS activity was derived from electrocardiogram recordings after intake of placebo, LSD or ketanserin, and LSD by calculating R-peak-based measures of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity. Repeated measure ANOVA and partial correlation for HRV measures and subjective experience questionnaires were performed. LSD predominantly increased sympathetic activity, while ketanserin counteracted this effect on the ANS via an increase of parasympathetic tone. Sympathetic activity was positively and parasympathetic activity negatively associated with psychedelic effects of LSD. Furthermore, Placebo HRV measures predicted subjective experiences after LSD intake. The association between trait ANS activity and LSD-induced subjective experiences may serve as a candidate biomarker set for the effectiveness of LSD in the treatment of psychopathological conditions.

Olbrich, S., Preller, K. H., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2021). LSD and ketanserin and their impact on the human autonomic nervous system. Psychophysiology, 58(6), e13822. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13822

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Psilocybin exerts distinct effects on resting state networks associated with serotonin and dopamine in mice

Abstract

Hallucinogenic agents have been proposed as potent antidepressants; this includes the serotonin (5-HT) receptor 2A agonist psilocybin. In human subjects, psilocybin alters functional connectivity (FC) within the default-mode network (DMN), a constellation of inter-connected regions that displays altered FC in depressive disorders. In this study, we investigated the effects of psilocybin on FC across the entire brain with a view to investigate underlying mechanisms. Psilocybin effects were investigated in lightly-anaesthetized mice using resting-state fMRI. Dual-regression analysis identified reduced FC within the ventral striatum in psilocybin- relative to vehicle-treated mice. Refinement of the analysis using spatial references derived from both gene expression maps and viral tracer projection fields revealed two distinct effects of psilocybin: it increased FC between 5-HT-associated networks and cortical areas, including elements of the murine DMN, thalamus, and midbrain; it decreased FC within dopamine (DA)-associated striatal networks. These results suggest that interactions between 5-HT- and DA-regulated neural networks contribute to the neural and therefore psychological effects of psilocybin. Furthermore, they highlight how information on molecular expression patterns and structural connectivity can assist in the interpretation of pharmaco-fMRI findings.

Grandjean, J., Buehlmann, D., Buerge, M., Sigrist, H., Seifritz, E., Vollenweider, F. X., Pryce, C. R., & Rudin, M. (2021). Psilocybin exerts distinct effects on resting state networks associated with serotonin and dopamine in mice. NeuroImage, 225, 117456. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117456

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Psilocybin exerts distinct effects on resting state networks associated with serotonin and dopamine in mice

Abstract

Hallucinogenic agents have been proposed as potent antidepressants; this includes the serotonin (5-HT) receptor 2A agonist psilocybin. In human subjects, psilocybin alters functional connectivity (FC) within the default-mode network (DMN), a constellation of inter-connected regions that displays altered FC in depressive disorders. In this study, we investigated the effects of psilocybin on FC across the entire brain with a view to investigate underlying mechanisms. Psilocybin effects were investigated in lightly-anaesthetized mice using resting-state fMRI. Dual-regression analysis identified reduced FC within the ventral striatum in psilocybin- relative to vehicle-treated mice. Refinement of the analysis using spatial references derived from both gene expression maps and viral tracer projection fields revealed two distinct effects of psilocybin: it increased FC between 5-HT-associated networks and cortical areas, including elements of the murine DMN, thalamus, and midbrain; it decreased FC within dopamine (DA)-associated striatal networks. These results suggest that interactions between 5-HT- and DA-regulated neural networks contribute to the neural and therefore psychological effects of psilocybin. Furthermore, they highlight how information on molecular expression patterns and structural connectivity can assist in the interpretation of pharmaco-fMRI findings.

Grandjean, J., Buehlmann, D., Buerge, M., Sigrist, H., Seifritz, E., Vollenweider, F. X., Pryce, C. R., & Rudin, M. (2021). Psilocybin exerts distinct effects on resting state networks associated with serotonin and dopamine in mice. NeuroImage, 225, 117456. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117456

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Psychedelic drugs: neurobiology and potential for treatment of psychiatric disorders

Abstract

Renewed interest in the use of psychedelics in the treatment of psychiatric disorders warrants a better understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the effects of these substances. After a hiatus of about 50 years, state-of-the art studies have recently begun to close important knowledge gaps by elucidating the mechanisms of action of psychedelics with regard to their effects on receptor subsystems, systems-level brain activity and connectivity, and cognitive and emotional processing. In addition, functional studies have shown that changes in self-experience, emotional processing and social cognition may contribute to the potential therapeutic effects of psychedelics. These discoveries provide a scientific road map for the investigation and application of psychedelic substances in psychiatry.

Vollenweider, F. X., & Preller, K. H. (2020). Psychedelic drugs: neurobiology and potential for treatment of psychiatric disorders. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 21(11), 611–624. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41583-020-0367-2

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LSD-induced increases in social adaptation to opinions similar to one’s own are associated with stimulation of serotonin receptors

Abstract

Adapting one’s attitudes and behaviors to group norms is essential for successful social interaction and, thus, participation in society. Yet, despite its importance for societal and individual functioning, the underlying neuropharmacology is poorly understood. We therefore investigated its neurochemical and neural correlates in a pharmacological functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been shown to alter social processing and therefore provides the unique opportunity to investigate the role of the 5-HT2A receptor in social influence processing. Twenty-four healthy human volunteers received either (1) placebo + placebo, (2) placebo + LSD (100 µg), or (3) the 5-HT2A receptor antagonist ketanserin (40 mg) + LSD (100 µg) at three different occasions in a double-blind, randomized, counterbalanced, cross-over design. LSD increases social adaptation but only if the opinions of others are similar to the individual’s own. These increases were associated with increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex while participants received social feedback. Furthermore, pretreatment with the 5-HT2A antagonist ketanserin fully blocked LSD-induced changes during feedback processing, indicating a key role of the 5-HT2A system in social feedback processing. Our results highlight the crucial role of the 5-HT-system in social influence and, thus, provide important insight into the neuropharmacological basis of social cognition and behavior.

Duerler, P., Schilbach, L., Stämpfli, P., Vollenweider, F. X., & Preller, K. H. (2020). LSD-induced increases in social adaptation to opinions similar to one’s own are associated with stimulation of serotonin receptors. Scientific reports, 10(1), 12181. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68899-y

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LSD-induced increases in social adaptation to opinions similar to one’s own are associated with stimulation of serotonin receptors

Abstract

Adapting one’s attitudes and behaviors to group norms is essential for successful social interaction and, thus, participation in society. Yet, despite its importance for societal and individual functioning, the underlying neuropharmacology is poorly understood. We therefore investigated its neurochemical and neural correlates in a pharmacological functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been shown to alter social processing and therefore provides the unique opportunity to investigate the role of the 5-HT2A receptor in social influence processing. Twenty-four healthy human volunteers received either (1) placebo + placebo, (2) placebo + LSD (100 µg), or (3) the 5-HT2A receptor antagonist ketanserin (40 mg) + LSD (100 µg) at three different occasions in a double-blind, randomized, counterbalanced, cross-over design. LSD increases social adaptation but only if the opinions of others are similar to the individual’s own. These increases were associated with increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex while participants received social feedback. Furthermore, pretreatment with the 5-HT2A antagonist ketanserin fully blocked LSD-induced changes during feedback processing, indicating a key role of the 5-HT2A system in social feedback processing. Our results highlight the crucial role of the 5-HT-system in social influence and, thus, provide important insight into the neuropharmacological basis of social cognition and behavior.
Duerler, P., Schilbach, L., Stämpfli, P., Vollenweider, F. X., & Preller, K. H. (2020). LSD-induced increases in social adaptation to opinions similar to one’s own are associated with stimulation of serotonin receptors. Scientific reports10(1), 1-11., https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68899-y
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Modulation of Social Cognition via Hallucinogens and “Entactogens”.

Abstract

Social cognition is a fundamental ability in human everyday lives. Deficits in social functioning also represent a core aspect of many psychiatric disorders. Yet, despite its significance, deficits in social cognition skills are insufficiently targeted by current treatments. Hallucinogens and entactogens have been shown to have the potential to modulate social processing. This article reviews the literature on the influence of hallucinogens and entactogens on social processing in controlled experimental studies in humans and elucidates the underlying neurobiological and neuropharmacological mechanisms. Furthermore, it identifies current knowledge gaps and derives implications for hallucinogen-assisted treatment approaches as well as the development of novel medication for trans-diagnostic impairments in social cognition.

Preller, K. H., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2019). Modulation of Social Cognition via Hallucinogens and “Entactogens”. Frontiers in Psychiatry10., https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00881
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Modulation of Social Cognition via Hallucinogens and "Entactogens".

Abstract

Social cognition is a fundamental ability in human everyday lives. Deficits in social functioning also represent a core aspect of many psychiatric disorders. Yet, despite its significance, deficits in social cognition skills are insufficiently targeted by current treatments. Hallucinogens and entactogens have been shown to have the potential to modulate social processing. This article reviews the literature on the influence of hallucinogens and entactogens on social processing in controlled experimental studies in humans and elucidates the underlying neurobiological and neuropharmacological mechanisms. Furthermore, it identifies current knowledge gaps and derives implications for hallucinogen-assisted treatment approaches as well as the development of novel medication for trans-diagnostic impairments in social cognition.

Preller, K. H., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2019). Modulation of Social Cognition via Hallucinogens and “Entactogens”. Frontiers in Psychiatry10., https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00881
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Psilocybin-assisted mindfulness training modulates self-consciousness and brain default mode network connectivity with lasting effects

Abstract

Both psychedelics and meditation exert profound modulatory effects on consciousness, perception and cognition, but their combined, possibly synergistic effects on neurobiology are unknown. Accordingly, we conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 38 participants following a single administration of the psychedelic psilocybin (315 μg/kg p.o.) during a 5-day mindfulness retreat. Brain dynamics were quantified directly pre- and post-intervention by functional magnetic resonance imaging during the resting state and two meditation forms. The analysis of functional connectivity identified psilocybin-related and mental state–dependent alterations in self-referential processing regions of the default mode network (DMN). Notably, decoupling of medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices, which is thought to mediate sense of self, was associated with the subjective ego dissolution effect during the psilocybin-assisted mindfulness session. The extent of ego dissolution and brain connectivity predicted positive changes in psycho-social functioning of participants 4 months later. Psilocybin, combined with meditation, facilitated neurodynamic modulations in self-referential networks, subserving the process of meditation by acting along the anterior–posterior DMN connection. The study highlights the link between altered self-experience and subsequent behavioral changes. Understanding how interventions facilitate transformative experiences may open novel therapeutic perspectives. Insights into the biology of discrete mental states foster our understanding of non-ordinary forms of human self-consciousness and their concomitant brain substrate.

Smigielski, L., Scheidegger, M., Kometer, M., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2019). Psilocybin-assisted mindfulness training modulates self-consciousness and brain default mode network connectivity with lasting effects. NeuroImage196, 207-215., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.04.009
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Effective connectivity changes in LSD-induced altered states of consciousness in humans

Abstract

Psychedelics exert unique effects on human consciousness. The thalamic filter model suggests that core effects of psychedelics may result from gating deficits, based on a disintegration of information processing within cortico–striato–thalamo-cortical (CSTC) feedback loops. To test this hypothesis, we characterized changes in directed (effective) connectivity between selected CTSC regions after acute administration of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and after pretreatment with Ketanserin (a selective serotonin 2A receptor antagonist) plus LSD in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study in 25 healthy participants. We used spectral dynamic causal modeling (DCM) for resting-state fMRI data. Fully connected DCM models were specified for each treatment condition to investigate the connectivity between the following areas: thalamus, ventral striatum, posterior cingulate cortex, and temporal cortex. Our results confirm major predictions proposed in the CSTC model and provide evidence that LSD alters effective connectivity within CSTC pathways that have been implicated in the gating of sensory and sensorimotor information to the cortex. In particular, LSD increased effective connectivity from the thalamus to the posterior cingulate cortex in a way that depended on serotonin 2A receptor activation, and decreased effective connectivity from the ventral striatum to the thalamus independently of serotonin 2A receptor activation. Together, these results advance our mechanistic understanding of the action of psychedelics in health and disease. This is important for the development of new pharmacological therapeutics and also increases our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the potential clinical efficacy of psychedelics.

Preller, K. H., Razi, A., Zeidman, P., Stämpfli, P., Friston, K. J., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2019). Effective connectivity changes in LSD-induced altered states of consciousness in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201815129., 10.1073/pnas.1815129116
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