LSD enhances suggestibility in healthy volunteers

LSD enhances suggestibility in healthy volunteers

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has a history of use as a psychotherapeutic aid in the treatment of mood disorders and addiction, and it was also explored as an enhancer of mind control.

Objectives

The present study sought to test the effect of LSD on suggestibility in a modern research study. Methods Ten healthy volunteers were administered with intravenous (i.v.) LSD (40–80 µg) in a within-subject placebo- controlled design. Suggestibility and cued mental imagery were assessed using the Creative Imagination Scale (CIS) and a mental imagery test (MIT). CIS and MIT items were split into two versions (A and B), balanced for ‘efficacy’ (i.e. A˜B) and counterbalanced across conditions (i.e. 50 % completed version ‘A’ under LSD). The MIT and CIS were issued 110 and 140 min, respectively, post-infusion, corresponding with the peak drug effects.

Results

Volunteers gave significantly higher ratings for the CIS (p=0.018), but not the MIT (p=0.11), after LSD than placebo. The magnitude of suggestibility enhancement under LSD was positively correlated with trait conscientiousness measured at baseline (p=0.0005).

Conclusions

These results imply that the influence of suggestion is enhanced by LSD. Enhanced suggestibility under LSD may have implications for its use as an adjunct to psychotherapy, where suggestibility plays a major role. That cued imagery was unaffected by LSD implies that suggestions must be of a sufficient duration and level of detail to be enhanced by the drug. The results also imply that individuals with high trait conscientiousness are especially sensitive to the suggestibility-enhancing effects of LSD.

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MDMA on subjective and BOLD-fMRI responses to autobiographical memories

The effect of acutely administered MDMA on subjective and BOLD-fMRI responses to favourite and worst autobiographical memories

3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a potent monoamine-releaser that is widely used as a recreational drug. Preliminary work has supported the potential of MDMA in psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The neurobiological mechanisms underlying its putative efficacy are, however, poorly understood. Psychotherapy for PTSD usually requires that patients revisit traumatic memories, and it has been argued that this is easier to do under MDMA. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to investigate the effect of MDMA on recollection of favourite and worst autobiographical memories (AMs). Nineteen participants (five females) with previous experience with MDMA performed a blocked AM recollection (AMR) paradigm after ingestion of 100 mg of MDMA-HCl or ascorbic acid (placebo) in a double-blind, repeated-measures design.

Memory cues describing participants’ AMs were read by them in the scanner. Favourite memories were rated as significantly more vivid, emotionally intense and positive after MDMA than placebo and worst memories were rated as less negative. Functional MRI data from 17 participants showed robust activations to AMs in regions known to be involved in AMR.

There was also a significant effect of memory valence: hippo-campal regions showed preferential activations to favourite memories and executive regions to worst memories. MDMA augmented activations to favourite memories in the bilateral fusiform gyrus and somatosensory cortex and attenuated activations to worst memories in the left anterior temporal cortex. These findings are consistent with a positive emotional-bias likely mediated by MDMA’s pro-monoaminergic pharmacology.

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The Entropic Brain – A theory of conscious states

The Entropic Brain – A theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs

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.

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