OPEN Foundation

R. Leech

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
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Psilocybin with psychological support improves emotional face recognition in treatment-resistant depression

Abstract

Rationale

Depressed patients robustly exhibit affective biases in emotional processing which are altered by SSRIs and predict clinical outcome.

Objectives

The objective of this study is to investigate whether psilocybin, recently shown to rapidly improve mood in treatment-resistant depression (TRD), alters patients’ emotional processing biases.

Methods

Seventeen patients with treatment-resistant depression completed a dynamic emotional face recognition task at baseline and 1 month later after two doses of psilocybin with psychological support. Sixteen controls completed the emotional recognition task over the same time frame but did not receive psilocybin.

Results

We found evidence for a group × time interaction on speed of emotion recognition (p = .035). At baseline, patients were slower at recognising facial emotions compared with controls (p < .001). After psilocybin, this difference was remediated (p = .208). Emotion recognition was faster at follow-up compared with baseline in patients (p = .004, d = .876) but not controls (p = .263, d = .302). In patients, this change was significantly correlated with a reduction in anhedonia over the same time period (r = .640, p = .010).

Conclusions

Psilocybin with psychological support appears to improve processing of emotional faces in treatment-resistant depression, and this correlates with reduced anhedonia. Placebo-controlled studies are warranted to follow up these preliminary findings.

Stroud, J. B., Freeman, T. P., Leech, R., Hindocha, C., Lawn, W., Nutt, D. J., … & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2017). Psilocybin with psychological support improves emotional face recognition in treatment-resistant depression. Psychopharmacology, 1-8. 10.1007/s00213-017-4754-y
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Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms

Abstract

Psilocybin with psychological support is showing promise as a treatment model in psychiatry but its therapeutic mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, cerebral blood flow (CBF) and blood oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) were measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after treatment with psilocybin (serotonin agonist) for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Quality pre and post treatment fMRI data were collected from 16 of 19 patients. Decreased depressive symptoms were observed in all 19 patients at 1-week post-treatment and 47% met criteria for response at 5 weeks. Whole-brain analyses revealed post-treatment decreases in CBF in the temporal cortex, including the amygdala. Decreased amygdala CBF correlated with reduced depressive symptoms. Focusing on a priori selected circuitry for RSFC analyses, increased RSFC was observed within the default-mode network (DMN) post-treatment. Increased ventromedial prefrontal cortex-bilateral inferior lateral parietal cortex RSFC was predictive of treatment response at 5-weeks, as was decreased parahippocampal-prefrontal cortex RSFC. These data fill an important knowledge gap regarding the post-treatment brain effects of psilocybin, and are the first in depressed patients. The post-treatment brain changes are different to previously observed acute effects of psilocybin and other ‘psychedelics’ yet were related to clinical outcomes. A ‘reset’ therapeutic mechanism is proposed.
Carhart-Harris, R. L., Roseman, L., Bolstridge, M., Demetriou, L., Pannekoek, J. N., Wall, M. B., … & Leech, R. (2017). Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms. Scientific reports7(1), 13187. 10.1038/s41598-017-13282-7
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LSD alters eyes-closed functional connectivity within the early visual cortex in a retinotopic fashion

Abstract

The question of how spatially organized activity in the visual cortex behaves during eyes-closed, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)-induced “psychedelic imagery” (e.g., visions of geometric patterns and more complex phenomena) has never been empirically addressed, although it has been proposed that under psychedelics, with eyes-closed, the brain may function “as if” there is visual input when there is none. In this work, resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) data was analyzed from 10 healthy subjects under the influence of LSD and, separately, placebo. It was suspected that eyes-closed psychedelic imagery might involve transient local retinotopic activation, of the sort typically associated with visual stimulation. To test this, it was hypothesized that, under LSD, patches of the visual cortex with congruent retinotopic representations would show greater RSFC than incongruent patches. Using a retinotopic localizer performed during a nondrug baseline condition, nonadjacent patches of V1 and V3 that represent the vertical or the horizontal meridians of the visual field were identified. Subsequently, RSFC between V1 and V3 was measured with respect to these a priori identified patches. Consistent with our prior hypothesis, the difference between RSFC of patches with congruent retinotopic specificity (horizontal-horizontal and vertical-vertical) and those with incongruent specificity (horizontal-vertical and vertical-horizontal) increased significantly under LSD relative to placebo, suggesting that activity within the visual cortex becomes more dependent on its intrinsic retinotopic organization in the drug condition. This result may indicate that under LSD, with eyes-closed, the early visual system behaves as if it were seeing spatially localized visual inputs.

Roseman, L., Sereno, M. I., Leech, R., Kaelen, M., Orban, C., McGonigle, J., … & Carhart‐Harris, R. L. (2016). LSD alters eyes‐closed functional connectivity within the early visual cortex in a retinotopic fashion. Human Brain Mapping. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hbm.23224

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Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging

Abstract

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is the prototypical psychedelic drug, but its effects on the human brain have never been studied before with modern neuroimaging. Here, three complementary neuroimaging techniques: arterial spin labeling (ASL), blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) measures, and magnetoencephalography (MEG), implemented during resting state conditions, revealed marked changes in brain activity after LSD that correlated strongly with its characteristic psychological effects. Increased visual cortex cerebral blood flow (CBF), decreased visual cortex alpha power, and a greatly expanded primary visual cortex (V1) functional connectivity profile correlated strongly with ratings of visual hallucinations, implying that intrinsic brain activity exerts greater influence on visual processing in the psychedelic state, thereby defining its hallucinatory quality. LSD’s marked effects on the visual cortex did not significantly correlate with the drug’s other characteristic effects on consciousness, however. Rather, decreased connectivity between the parahippocampus and retrosplenial cortex (RSC) correlated strongly with ratings of “ego-dissolution” and “altered meaning,” implying the importance of this particular circuit for the maintenance of “self” or “ego” and its processing of “meaning.” Strong relationships were also found between the different imaging metrics, enabling firmer inferences to be made about their functional significance. This uniquely comprehensive examination of the LSD state represents an important advance in scientific research with psychedelic drugs at a time of growing interest in their scientific and therapeutic value. The present results contribute important new insights into the characteristic hallucinatory and consciousness-altering properties of psychedelics that inform on how they can model certain pathological states and potentially treat others.

Carhart-Harris, R. L., Muthukumaraswamy, S., Roseman, L., Kaelen, M., Droog, W., Murphy, K., … & Leech, R. (2016). Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201518377. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1518377113
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The Effects of Acutely Administered 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine on Spontaneous Brain Function in Healthy Volunteers Measured with Arterial Spin Labeling and Blood Oxygen Level-Dependent Resting State Functional Connectivity

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The compound 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a potent monoamine releaser that produces an acute euphoria in most individuals.

METHODS:

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, balanced-order study, MDMA was orally administered to 25 physically and mentally healthy individuals. Arterial spin labeling and seed-based resting state functional connectivity (RSFC) were used to produce spatial maps displaying changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF) and RSFC after MDMA administration. Participants underwent two arterial spin labeling and two blood oxygen level-dependent scans in a 90-minute scan session; MDMA and placebo study days were separated by 1 week.

RESULTS:

Marked increases in positive mood were produced by MDMA. Decreased CBF only was observed after MDMA, and this was localized to the right medial temporal lobe (MTL), thalamus, inferior visual cortex, and the somatosensory cortex. Decreased CBF in the right amygdala and hippocampus correlated with ratings of the intensity of global subjective effects of MDMA. The RSFC results complemented the CBF results, with decreases in RSFC between midline cortical regions, the medial prefrontal cortex, and MTL regions, and increases between the amygdala and hippocampus. There were trend-level correlations between these effects and ratings of intense and positive subjective effects.

CONCLUSIONS:

The MTLs appear to be specifically implicated in the mechanism of action of MDMA, but further work is required to elucidate how the drug’s characteristic subjective effects arise from its modulation of spontaneous brain activity.

Carhart-Harris, R. L., Murphy, K., Leech, R., Erritzoe, D., Wall, M. B., Ferguson, B., … & Tanner, M. (2014). The Effects of Acutely Administered 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine on Spontaneous Brain Function in Healthy Volunteers Measured with Arterial Spin Labeling and Blood Oxygen Level–Dependent Resting State Functional Connectivity. Biological psychiatry. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.12.015

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Enhanced repertoire of brain dynamical states during the psychedelic experience

Abstract

The study of rapid changes in brain dynamics and functional connectivity (FC) is of increasing interest in neuroimaging. Brain states departing from normal waking consciousness are expected to be accompanied by alterations in the aforementioned dynamics. In particular, the psychedelic experience produced by psilocybin (a substance found in `magic mushrooms`) is characterized by unconstrained cognition and profound alterations in the perception of time, space and selfhood. Considering the spontaneous and subjective manifestation of these effects, we hypothesize that neural correlates of the psychedelic experience can be found in the dynamics and variability of spontaneous brain activity fluctuations and connectivity, measurable with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Fifteen healthy subjects were scanned before, during and after intravenous infusion of psilocybin and an inert placebo. Blood-Oxygen Level Dependent (BOLD) temporal variability was assessed computing the variance and total spectral power, resulting in increased signal variability bilaterally in the hippocampi and anterior cingulate cortex. Changes in BOLD signal spectral behavior (including spectral scaling exponents) affected exclusively higher brain systems such as the default mode, executive control and dorsal attention networks. A novel framework enabled us to track different connectivity states explored by the brain during rest. This approach revealed a wider repertoire of connectivity states post-psilocybin than during control conditions. Together, the present results provide a comprehensive account of the effects of psilocybin on dynamical behaviour in the human brain at a macroscopic level and may have implications for our understanding of the unconstrained, hyper-associative quality of consciousness in the psychedelic state.

Tagliazucchi, E., Carhart-Harris, R. L., Leech, R., Nutt, D., & Chialvo, D. R. (2014). Enhanced repertoire of brain dynamical states during the psychedelic experience. Human Brain Mapping, 35(11), 5442-5456. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hbm.22562
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The effects of psilocybin and MDMA on between-network resting state functional connectivity in healthy volunteers

Abstract

Perturbing a system and observing the consequences is a classic scientific strategy for understanding a phenomenon. Psychedelic drugs perturb consciousness in a marked and novel way and thus are powerful tools for studying its mechanisms. In the present analysis, we measured changes in resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) between a standard template of different independent components analysis (ICA)-derived resting state networks (RSNs) under the influence of two different psychoactive drugs, the stimulant/psychedelic hybrid, MDMA, and the classic psychedelic, psilocybin. Both were given in placebo-controlled designs and produced marked subjective effects, although reports of more profound changes in consciousness were given after psilocybin. Between-network RSFC was generally increased under psilocybin, implying that networks become less differentiated from each other in the psychedelic state. Decreased RSFC between visual and sensorimotor RSNs was also observed. MDMA had a notably less marked effect on between-network RSFC, implying that the extensive changes observed under psilocybin may be exclusive to classic psychedelic drugs and related to their especially profound effects on consciousness. The novel analytical approach applied here may be applied to other altered states of consciousness to improve our characterization of different conscious states and ultimately advance our understanding of the brain mechanisms underlying them.

Roseman, L., Leech, R., Feilding, A., Nutt, D. J., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2014). The effects of psilocybin and MDMA on between-network resting state functional connectivity in healthy volunteers. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 1-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00204
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The entropic brain: a theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs

Abstract

Entropy is a dimensionless quantity that is used for measuring uncertainty about the state of a system but it can also imply physical qualities, where high entropy is synonymous with high disorder. Entropy is applied here in the context of states of consciousness and their associated neurodynamics, with a particular focus on the psychedelic state. The psychedelic state is considered an exemplar of a primitive or primary state of consciousness that preceded the development of modern, adult, human, normal waking consciousness. Based on neuroimaging data with psilocybin, a classic psychedelic drug, it is argued that the defining feature of “primary states” is elevated entropy in certain aspects of brain function, such as the repertoire of functional connectivity motifs that form and fragment across time. Indeed, since there is a greater repertoire of connectivity motifs in the psychedelic state than in normal waking consciousness, this implies that primary states may exhibit “criticality,” i.e., the property of being poised at a “critical” point in a transition zone between order and disorder where certain phenomena such as power-law scaling appear. Moreover, if primary states are critical, then this suggests that entropy is suppressed in normal waking consciousness, meaning that the brain operates just below criticality. It is argued that this entropy suppression furnishes normal waking consciousness with a constrained quality and associated metacognitive functions, including reality-testing and self-awareness. It is also proposed that entry into primary states depends on a collapse of the normally highly organized activity within the default-mode network (DMN) and a decoupling between the DMN and the medial temporal lobes (which are normally significantly coupled). These hypotheses can be tested by examining brain activity and associated cognition in other candidate primary states such as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and early psychosis and comparing these with non-primary states such as normal waking consciousness and the anaesthetized state.

Carhart-Harris, R. L., Leech, R., Hellyer, P. J., Shanahan, M., Feilding, A., Tagliazucchi, E., Chialvo, D. R., & Nutt, D. (2014). The entropic brain: a theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 1-22. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00020
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The Effects of Acutely Administered 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine on Spontaneous Brain Function in Healthy Volunteers Measured with Arterial Spin Labelling and Blood Oxygen Level-Dependent Resting-State Functional Connectivity

Abstract

Background
3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a potent monoamine releaser that produces an acute euphoria in most individuals.

Methods
MDMA was orally administered to 25 physically and mentally healthy individuals in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, balanced-order study. Arterial spin labelling (ASL) and seed-based resting state functional connectivity (RSFC) were used to produce spatial maps displaying changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF) and RSFC after MDMA. Participants underwent two ASL and two BOLD scans in a 90 minute scanning session and the MDMA and placebo study days were separated by one week.

Results
MDMA produced marked increases in positive mood. Only decreased CBF was observed after MDMA and this was localised to the right medial temporal lobe (MTL), thalamus, inferior visual cortex and the somatosensory cortex. Decreased CBF in the right amygdala and hippocampus correlated with ratings of the intensity of MDMA’s global subjective effects. The RSFC results complemented the CBF results, with decreases in RSFC between midline cortical regions, the medial prefrontal cortex and MTL regions, and increases between the amygdala and hippocampus. There were trend-level correlations between these effects and ratings of intense and positive subjective effects.

Conclusions
The MTLs appear to be specifically implicated in the mechanism of action of MDMA but further work is required to elucidate how the drug’s characteristic subjective effects arise from its modulation of spontaneous brain activity.

Carhart-Harris, R. L., Murphy, K., Leech, R., Erritzoe, D., Wall, M. B., Ferguson, B., … Nutt, D. J. (2014). The Effects of Acutely Administered 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine on Spontaneous Brain Function in Healthy Volunteers Measured with Arterial Spin Labelling and Blood Oxygen Level-Dependent Resting-State Functional Connectivity. Biological Psychiatry. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.12.015
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