OPEN Foundation

K. Preller

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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Classical Psychedelics as Therapeutics in Psychiatry – Current Clinical Evidence and Potential Therapeutic Mechanisms in Substance Use and Mood Disorders

Abstract

Classical psychedelics, primarily psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), have been used and extensively studied in Western medicine as part of substance-assisted psychotherapy in the 1950s and 1960s. Modern clinical research is currently gaining momentum and provides new evidence for the safety and efficacy of classical psychedelics (primarily psilocybin, but also LSD and ayahuasca) in the treatment of different psychiatric conditions, including substance use and mood disorders.In this review article, we outline common pathological mechanisms of substance use disorders (SUD) and unipolar depression. Next, the current literature on the effects of psychedelics is summarized in order to generate hypotheses regarding their potential therapeutic mechanisms of action in treating these psychiatric conditions. Finally, we review and discuss clinical trials published since 2011 investigating the effects of psychedelics in SUD and depression.While results from those modern clinical trials are promising, most of them do not meet the methodological requirements to allow firm conclusions on the clinical efficacy of psychedelics. Larger, blinded, randomized controlled trials (RCT) with clearly defined patient groups and well-defined primary endpoints are needed. Additionally, the therapeutic mechanisms of classical psychedelics are currently unknown. This review presents hypotheses derived from preclinical and human studies that need to be tested in future trials to better understand the clinical potential of psychedelic substances in modern psychiatry.

Mertens, L. J., & Preller, K. H. (2021). Classical Psychedelics as Therapeutics in Psychiatry – Current Clinical Evidence and Potential Therapeutic Mechanisms in Substance Use and Mood Disorders. Pharmacopsychiatry, 54(4), 176–190. https://doi.org/10.1055/a-1341-1907

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Hallucinations Under Psychedelics and in the Schizophrenia Spectrum: An Interdisciplinary and Multiscale Comparison

Abstract

The recent renaissance of psychedelic science has reignited interest in the similarity of drug-induced experiences to those more commonly observed in psychiatric contexts such as the schizophrenia-spectrum. This report from a multidisciplinary working group of the International Consortium on Hallucinations Research (ICHR) addresses this issue, putting special emphasis on hallucinatory experiences. We review evidence collected at different scales of understanding, from pharmacology to brain-imaging, phenomenology and anthropology, highlighting similarities and differences between hallucinations under psychedelics and in the schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Finally, we attempt to integrate these findings using computational approaches and conclude with recommendations for future research.

Leptourgos, P., Fortier-Davy, M., Carhart-Harris, R., Corlett, P. R., Dupuis, D., Halberstadt, A. L., Kometer, M., Kozakova, E., LarØi, F., Noorani, T. N., Preller, K. H., Waters, F., Zaytseva, Y., & Jardri, R. (2020). Hallucinations Under Psychedelics and in the Schizophrenia Spectrum: An Interdisciplinary and Multiscale Comparison. Schizophrenia bulletin, 46(6), 1396–1408. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbaa117

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Hallucinogens in Mental Health: Preclinical and Clinical Studies on LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, and Ketamine

Abstract

A revamped interest in the study of hallucinogens has recently emerged, especially with regard to their potential application in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. In the last decade, a plethora of preclinical and clinical studies have confirmed the efficacy of ketamine in the treatment of depression. More recently, emerging evidence has pointed out the potential therapeutic properties of psilocybin and LSD, as well as their ability to modulate functional brain connectivity. Moreover, MDMA, a compound belonging to the family of entactogens, has been demonstrated to be useful to treat post-traumatic stress disorders. In this review, the pharmacology of hallucinogenic compounds is summarized by underscoring the differences between psychedelic and nonpsychedelic hallucinogens as well as entactogens, and their behavioral effects in both animals and humans are described. Together, these data substantiate the potentials of these compounds in treating mental diseases.

De Gregorio, D., Aguilar-Valles, A., Preller, K. H., Heifets, B. D., Hibicke, M., Mitchell, J., & Gobbi, G. (2021). Hallucinogens in Mental Health: Preclinical and Clinical Studies on LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, and Ketamine. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 41(5), 891–900. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1659-20.2020

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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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Psilocybin Induces Time-Dependent Changes in Global Functional Connectivity

Abstract

Background

The use of psilocybin in scientific and experimental clinical contexts has triggered renewed interest in the mechanism of action of psychedelics. However, its time-dependent systems-level neurobiology remains sparsely investigated in humans.

Methods

We conducted a double-blind, randomized, counterbalanced, crossover study comprising 23 healthy human participants who received placebo and 0.2 mg/kg of psilocybin orally on 2 different test days. Participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging at 3 time points between administration and peak effects: 20 minutes, 40 minutes, and 70 minutes after administration. Resting-state functional connectivity was quantified via a data-driven global brain connectivity method and compared with cortical gene expression maps.

Results

Psilocybin reduced associative, but concurrently increased sensory, brain-wide connectivity. This pattern emerged over time from administration to peak effects. Furthermore, we showed that baseline connectivity is associated with the extent of psilocybin-induced changes in functional connectivity. Lastly, psilocybin-induced changes correlated in a time-dependent manner with spatial gene expression patterns of the 5-HT2A (5-hydroxytryptamine 2A) and 5-HT1A (5-hydroxytryptamine 1A) receptors.

Conclusions

These results suggest that the integration of functional connectivity in sensory regions and the disintegration in associative regions may underlie the psychedelic state and pinpoint the critical role of the serotonin 2A and 1A receptor systems. Furthermore, baseline connectivity may represent a predictive marker of the magnitude of changes induced by psilocybin and may therefore contribute to a personalized medicine approach within the potential framework of psychedelic treatment.

Preller, K. H., Duerler, P., Burt, J. B., Ji, J. L., Adkinson, B., Stämpfli, P., … & Anticevic, A. (2020). Psilocybin induces time-dependent changes in global functional connectivity: Psi-induced changes in brain connectivity. Biological Psychiatry., 10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.12.027
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Preliminary Report on the Effects of a Low Dose of LSD on Resting-State Amygdala Functional Connectivity.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
The practice of “microdosing,” or the use of repeated, very low doses of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) to improve mood or cognition, has received considerable public attention, but empirical studies are lacking. Controlled studies are needed to investigate both the therapeutic potential and the neurobiological underpinnings of this pharmacologic treatment.
METHODS:
The present study was designed to examine the effects of a single low dose of LSD (13 μg) versus placebo on resting-state functional connectivity and cerebral blood flow in healthy young adults. Twenty men and women, 18 to 35 years old, participated in 2 functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning sessions in which they received placebo or LSD under double-blind conditions. During each session, the participants completed drug effect and mood questionnaires, and physiological measures were recorded. During expected peak drug effect, they underwent resting-state blood oxygen level-dependent and arterial spin labeling scans. Cerebral blood flow as well as amygdala and thalamic connectivity were analyzed.
RESULTS:
LSD increased amygdala seed-based connectivity with the right angular gyrus, right middle frontal gyrus, and the cerebellum, and decreased amygdala connectivity with the left and right postcentral gyrus and the superior temporal gyrus. This low dose of LSD had weak and variable effects on mood, but its effects on positive mood were positively correlated with the increase in amygdala-middle frontal gyrus connectivity strength.
CONCLUSIONS:
These preliminary findings show that a very low dose of LSD, which produces negligible subjective changes, alters brain connectivity in limbic circuits. Additional studies, especially with repeated dosing, will reveal whether these neural changes are related to the drug’s purported antidepressant effect.

Bershad, A. K., Preller, K. H., Lee, R., Keedy, S., Wren-Jarvis, J., Bremmer, M. P., & de Wit, H. (2019). Preliminary report on the effects of a low dose of LSD on resting state amygdalar functional connectivity. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2019.12.007
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Neuropharmacological modulation of the aberrant bodily self through psychedelics

Abstract

As a continual source of sensory input and fundamental component of self-referential processing, the body holds an integral modulatory role in cognition. In a healthy state, predictive coding of multisensory integration promotes the construction of a coherent self. However, several psychiatric disorders comprise aberrant perceptions of the bodily self that are purported to involve discrepancies in the integration and updating of multisensory systems. Changes in functional connectivity of somatomotor and high-level association networks in these disorders could be successfully remediated through 5-HT2A receptor agonism via psychedelics. Reported alterations of bodily self-awareness during psychedelic experiences allude to a potentially central role of the bodily self. In this article, we bridge the domains of (aberrant) bodily self-awareness and psychedelics by discussing the predictive coding mechanisms underlying the bodily self and psychedelics. Furthermore, we propose that psychedelically-induced desynchronization of predictive coding might involve modulation of somatomotor, sensorimotor, and high-level association networks that could remediate aberrant perceptions of the bodily self.

Ho, J. T., Preller, K. H., & Lenggenhager, B. (2019). Neuropharmacological modulation of the aberrant bodily self through psychedelics. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.12.006
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22 May - Delivering Effective Psychedelic Clinical Trials

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