OPEN Foundation

M. Kaelen

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.
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 Psychopharmacology, 0269881119855974., https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0269881119855974
Link to full text

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
Link to full text

Psychedelics and music: neuroscience and therapeutic implications

From the beginning of therapeutic research with psychedelics, music listening has been consistently used as a method to guide or support therapeutic experiences during the acute effects of psychedelic drugs. Recent findings point to the potential of music to support meaning-making, emotionality, and mental imagery after the administration of psychedelics, and suggest that music plays an important role in facilitating positive clinical outcomes of psychedelic therapy. This review explores the history of, contemporary research on, and future directions regarding the use of music in psychedelic research and therapy, and argues for more detailed and rigorous investigation of the contribution of music to the treatment of psychiatric disorders within the novel framework of psychedelic therapy.
Barrett, F. S., Preller, K. H., & Kaelen, M. (2018). Psychedelics and music: neuroscience and therapeutic implications. International Review of Psychiatry30(4), 350-362., 10.1080/09540261.2018.1484342
Link to full text

Effects of psilocybin therapy on personality structure

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:
To explore whether psilocybin with psychological support modulates personality parameters in patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression (TRD).
METHOD:
Twenty patients with moderate or severe, unipolar, TRD received oral psilocybin (10 and 25 mg, one week apart) in a supportive setting. Personality was assessed at baseline and at 3-month follow-up using the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R), the subjective psilocybin experience with Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) scale, and depressive symptoms with QIDS-SR16.
RESULTS:
Neuroticism scores significantly decreased while Extraversion increased following psilocybin therapy. These changes were in the direction of the normative NEO-PI-R data and were both predicted, in an exploratory analysis, by the degree of insightfulness experienced during the psilocybin session. Openness scores also significantly increased following psilocybin, whereas Conscientiousness showed trend-level increases, and Agreeableness did not change.
CONCLUSION:
Our observation of changes in personality measures after psilocybin therapy was mostly consistent with reports of personality change in relation to conventional antidepressant treatment, although the pronounced increases in Extraversion and Openness might constitute an effect more specific to psychedelic therapy. This needs further exploration in future controlled studies, as do the brain mechanisms of postpsychedelic personality change.
Erritzoe, D., Roseman, L., Nour, M. M., MacLean, K., Kaelen, M., Nutt, D. J., & Carhart‐Harris, R. L. (2018). Effects of psilocybin therapy on personality structure. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 10.1111/acps.12904
Link to full text

The hidden therapist: evidence for a central role of music in psychedelic therapy

Abstract

RATIONALE:
Recent studies have supported the safety and efficacy of psychedelic therapy for mood disorders and addiction. Music is considered an important component in the treatment model, but little empirical research has been done to examine the magnitude and nature of its therapeutic role.
OBJECTIVES:
The present study assessed the influence of music on the acute experience and clinical outcomes of psychedelic therapy.
METHODS:
Semi-structured interviews inquired about the different ways in which music influenced the experience of 19 patients undergoing psychedelic therapy with psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was applied to the interview data to identify salient themes. In addition, ratings were given for each patient for the extent to which they expressed “liking,” “resonance” (the music being experienced as “harmonious” with the emotional state of the listener), and “openness” (acceptance of the music-evoked experience).
RESULTS:
Analyses of the interviews revealed that the music had both “welcome” and “unwelcome” influences on patients’ subjective experiences. Welcome influences included the evocation of personally meaningful and therapeutically useful emotion and mental imagery, a sense of guidance, openness, and the promotion of calm and a sense of safety. Conversely, unwelcome influences included the evocation of unpleasant emotion and imagery, a sense of being misguided and resistance. Correlation analyses showed that patients’ experience of the music was associated with the occurrence of “mystical experiences” and “insightfulness.” Crucially, the nature of the music experience was significantly predictive of reductions in depression 1 week after psilocybin, whereas general drug intensity was not.
CONCLUSIONS:
This study indicates that music plays a central therapeutic function in psychedelic therapy.
Kaelen, M., Giribaldi, B., Raine, J., Evans, L., Timmerman, C., Rodriguez, N., … & Carhart-Harris, R. (2018). The hidden therapist: Evidence for a central role of music in psychedelic therapy. Psychopharmacology235(2), 505-519. 10.1007/s00213-017-4820-5
Link to full text

Psychedelics and the essential importance of context

Abstract

Psychedelic drugs are making waves as modern trials support their therapeutic potential and various media continue to pique public interest. In this opinion piece, we draw attention to a long-recognised component of the psychedelic treatment model, namely ‘set’ and ‘setting’ – subsumed here under the umbrella term ‘context’. We highlight: (a) the pharmacological mechanisms of classic psychedelics (5-HT2A receptor agonism and associated plasticity) that we believe render their effects exceptionally sensitive to context, (b) a study design for testing assumptions regarding positive interactions between psychedelics and context, and (c) new findings from our group regarding contextual determinants of the quality of a psychedelic experience and how acute experience predicts subsequent long-term mental health outcomes. We hope that this article can: (a) inform on good practice in psychedelic research, (b) provide a roadmap for optimising treatment models, and (c) help tackle unhelpful stigma still surrounding these compounds, while developing an evidence base for long-held assumptions about the critical importance of context in relation to psychedelic use that can help minimise harms and maximise potential benefits.
Carhart-Harris, R. L., Roseman, L., Haijen, E., Erritzoe, D., Branchi, I., & Kaelen, M. (2018). Psychedelics and the essential importance of context. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881118754710.
Link to full text

Connectome-harmonic decomposition of human brain activity reveals dynamical repertoire re-organization under LSD

Abstract

Recent studies have started to elucidate the effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on the human brain but the underlying dynamics are not yet fully understood. Here we used ‘connectome-harmonic decomposition’, a novel method to investigate the dynamical changes in brain states. We found that LSD alters the energy and the power of individual harmonic brain states in a frequency-selective manner. Remarkably, this leads to an expansion of the repertoire of active brain states, suggestive of a general re-organization of brain dynamics given the non-random increase in co-activation across frequencies. Interestingly, the frequency distribution of the active repertoire of brain states under LSD closely follows power-laws indicating a re-organization of the dynamics at the edge of criticality. Beyond the present findings, these methods open up for a better understanding of the complex brain dynamics in health and disease.
Atasoy, S., Roseman, L., Kaelen, M., Kringelbach, M. L., Deco, G., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2017). Connectome-harmonic decomposition of human brain activity reveals dynamical repertoire re-organization under LSD. Scientific reports7(1), 17661. 10.1038/s41598-017-17546-0
Link to full text

LSD modulates effective connectivity and neural adaptation mechanisms in an auditory oddball paradigm

Abstract

Under the predictive coding framework, perceptual learning and inference are dependent on the interaction between top-down predictions and bottom-up sensory signals both between and within regions in a network. However, how such feedback and feedforward connections are modulated in the state induced by lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is poorly understood. In this study, an auditory oddball paradigm was presented to healthy participants (16 males, 4 female) under LSD and placebo, and brain activity was recorded using magnetoencephalography (MEG). Scalp level Event Related Fields (ERF) revealed reduced neural adaptation to familiar stimuli, and a blunted neural ‘surprise’ response to novel stimuli in the LSD condition. Dynamic causal modelling revealed that both the presentation of novel stimuli and LSD modulate backward extrinsic connectivity within a task-activated fronto-temporal network, as well as intrinsic connectivity in the primary auditory cortex. These findings show consistencies with those of previous studies of schizophrenia and ketamine but also studies of reduced consciousness – suggesting that rather than being a marker of conscious level per se, backward connectivity may index modulations of perceptual learning common to a variety of altered states of consciousness, perhaps united by a shared altered sensitivity to environmental stimuli. Since recent evidence suggests that the psychedelic state may correspond to a heightened ‘level’ of consciousness with respect to the normal waking state, our data warrant a re-examination of the top-down hypotheses of conscious level and suggest that several altered states may feature this specific biophysical effector.
Timmermann, C., Spriggs, M. J., Kaelen, M., Leech, R., Nutt, D. J., Moran, R. J., … & Muthukumaraswamy, S. D. (2017). LSD modulates effective connectivity and neural adaptation mechanisms in an auditory oddball paradigm. Neuropharmacology. 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.10.039
Link to full text

Psychedelics and connectedness

Abstract

Psychedelic drugs are creating ripples in psychiatry as evidence accumulates of their therapeutic potential. An important question remains unresolved however: how are psychedelics effective? We propose that a sense of connectedness is key, provide some preliminary evidence to support this, and suggest a roadmap for testing it further.
Carhart-Harris, R. L., Erritzoe, D., Haijen, E., Kaelen, M., & Watts, R. (2017). Psychedelics and connectedness. Psychopharmacology, 1-4. 10.1007/s00213-017-4701-y
Link to full text

Semantic activation in LSD: evidence from picture naming

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a classic psychedelic drug that alters cognition in a characteristic way. It has been suggested that psychedelics expand the breadth of cognition via actions on the central nervous system. Previous work has shown changes in semantic processing under psilocybin (a related psychedelic to LSD) that are consistent with an increased spread of semantic activation. The present study investigates this further using a picture-naming task and the psychedelic, LSD. Ten participants completed the task under placebo and LSD. Results revealed significant effects of LSD on accuracy and error correction that were consistent with an increased spread of semantic activation under LSD. These results are consistent with a generalised “entropic” effect on the mind. We suggest incorporating direct neuroimaging measures in future studies, and to employ more naturalistic measures of semantic processing that may enhance ecological validity.

Family, N., Vinson, D., Vigliocco, G., Kaelen, M., Bolstridge, M., Nutt, D. J., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2016). Semantic activation in LSD: evidence from picture naming. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 1-8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23273798.2016.1217030
Link to full text