Imperial College London

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris

Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Medicine

Research Fellow
 
 
 
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Contact

 

+44 (0)20 7594 7992r.carhart-harris

 
 
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Assistant

 

Miss Bruna Cunha +44 (0)20 7594 7992

 
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Location

 

Burlington DanesHammersmith Campus

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Summary

 

Publications

Publication Type
Year
to

83 results found

Lord L-D, Expert P, Atasoy S, Roseman L, Rapuano K, Lambiotte R, Nutt DJ, Deco G, Carhart-Harris RL, Kringelbach ML, Cabral Jet al., 2019, Dynamical exploration of the repertoire of brain networks at rest is modulated by psilocybin, NeuroImage, Vol: 199, Pages: 127-142, ISSN: 1053-8119

Growing evidence from the dynamical analysis of functional neuroimaging data suggests that brain function can be understood as the exploration of a repertoire of metastable connectivity patterns ('functional brain networks'), which potentially underlie different mental processes. The present study characterizes how the brain's dynamical exploration of resting-state networks is rapidly modulated by intravenous infusion of psilocybin, a tryptamine psychedelic found in "magic mushrooms". We employed a data-driven approach to characterize recurrent functional connectivity patterns by focusing on the leading eigenvector of BOLD phase coherence at single-TR resolution. Recurrent BOLD phase-locking patterns (PL states) were assessed and statistically compared pre- and post-infusion of psilocybin in terms of their probability of occurrence and transition profiles. Results were validated using a placebo session. Recurrent BOLD PL states revealed high spatial overlap with canonical resting-state networks. Notably, a PL state forming a frontoparietal subsystem was strongly destabilized after psilocybin injection, with a concomitant increase in the probability of occurrence of another PL state characterized by global BOLD phase coherence. These findings provide evidence of network-specific neuromodulation by psilocybin and represent one of the first attempts at bridging molecular pharmacodynamics and whole-brain network dynamics.

Journal article

Roseman L, Haijen E, Idialu-Ikato K, Kaelen M, Watts R, Carhart-Harris Ret al., Emotional breakthrough and psychedelics: Validation of the Emotional Breakthrough Inventory, Journal of Psychopharmacology, Pages: 026988111985597-026988111985597, ISSN: 0269-8811

<jats:sec><jats:title>Background:</jats:title><jats:p> 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. </jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Methods:</jats:title><jats:p> 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). </jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Results:</jats:title><jats:p> 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

Journal article

Scott G, Carhart-Harris R, Psychedelics as a treatment for disorders of consciousness, Neuroscience of Consciousness, ISSN: 2057-2107

Based on its ability to increase brain complexity, a seemingly reliable index of conscious level, we proposetesting the capacity ofthe classic psychedelic, psilocybin,to increase conscious awarenessin patients with disorders of consciousness.We alsoconfrontthe considerable ethical and practical challengesthis proposal must address, if this hypothesis is to be directly assessed.

Journal article

Erritzoe D, Smith J, Fisher PM, Carhart-Harris R, Frokjaer VG, Knudsen GMet al., 2019, Recreational use of psychedelics is associated with elevated personality trait openness: Exploration of associations with brain serotonin markers., J Psychopharmacol, Pages: 269881119827891-269881119827891

BACKGROUND:: Recent studies have suggested therapeutic benefits of psychedelics for a variety of mental health conditions. The understanding of how single psychedelic administrations can induce long-lasting effects are, in large, still lacking. However, recent studies in both healthy and clinical populations suggest a role for personality changes. AIM:: To test support for some of these plausible mechanisms we evaluated (cross-sectional) associations between recreational use of psychedelics and 3,4-methylene-dioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and (a) personality measures and (b) key markers of cerebral serotonergic signalling (serotonin transporter and serotonin-2A-receptor binding). METHODS:: In 10 psychedelic-preferring recreational users, 14 MDMA-preferring users and 21 non-using controls, personality was assessed using the 'big five' instrument Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R). Frontal serotonin transporter and serotonin-2A-receptor binding potentials were quantified using [11C]DASB and [18F]altanserin positron emission tomography, respectively. RESULTS:: Of the five NEO-PI-R traits, only openness to experience scores differed between the three groups; psychedelic-preferring recreational users showing higher openness to experience scores when compared with both MDMA-preferring users and controls. Openness to experience scores were positively associated with lifetime number of psychedelic exposures, and among all MDMA-preferring user/psychedelic-preferring recreational user individuals, frontal serotonin transporter binding - but not frontal serotonin-2A-receptor binding - was positively associated with openness to experience. CONCLUSION:: Our findings from this cross-sectional study support increasing evidence of a positive association between psychedelic experiences and openness to experience, and (a) expands this to the context of 'recreational' psychedelics use, and (b) links serotonergic neurotransmission to openness to experience. A modulation of perso

Journal article

Haijen ECHM, Kaelen M, Roseman L, Timmermann C, Russ S, Nutt D, Daws R, Hampshire A, Lorenz R, Carhart-Harris Ret al., 2018, Predicting responses to psychedelics: a prospective study, Frontiers in Pharmacology, Vol: 9, ISSN: 1663-9812

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 included N= 654, N= 535, N= 379, N= 315, and N= 212 respectively. Psychological well-being was increased two weeks after a psychedelic experience and remained at this level after four weeks. This increase was larger for individuals who scored higher for a ‘mystical-type experience’, and smaller for those who scored higher for ‘challenging 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 trait ‘absorption’ and higher drug doses promoted both mystical-type and challenging experiences. When comparing different types of variables, traits variables seemed to explain most variance in 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

Journal article

Carhart-Harris RL, 2018, The entropic brain - revisited, NEUROPHARMACOLOGY, Vol: 142, Pages: 167-178, ISSN: 0028-3908

Journal article

Roseman L, Demetriou L, Wall M, Nutt D, Carhart-Harris RLet al., 2018, Increased amygdala responses to emotional faces after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, Neuropharmacology, Vol: 142, Pages: 263-269, ISSN: 0028-3908

Recent evidence indicates that psilocybin with psychological support may be effective for treating depression. Some studies have found that patients with depression show heightened amygdala responses to fearful faces and there is reliable evidence that treatment with SSRIs attenuates amygdala responses (Ma, 2015). We hypothesised that amygdala responses to emotional faces would be altered post-treatment with psilocybin. In this open-label study, 20 individuals diagnosed with moderate to severe, treatment-resistant depression, underwent two separate dosing sessions with psilocybin. Psychological support was provided before, during and after these sessions and 19 completed fMRI scans one week prior to the first session and one day after the second and last. Neutral, fearful and happy faces were presented in the scanner and analyses focused on the amygdala. Group results revealed rapid and enduring improvements in depressive symptoms post psilocybin. Increased responses to fearful and happy faces were observed in the right amygdala post-treatment, and right amygdala increases to fearful versus neutral faces were predictive of clinical improvements at 1-week. Psilocybin with psychological support was associated with increased amygdala responses to emotional stimuli, an opposite effect to previous findings with SSRIs. This suggests fundamental differences in these treatments’ therapeutic actions, with SSRIs mitigating negative emotions and psilocybin allowing patients to confront and work through them. Based on the present results, we propose that psilocybin with psychological support is a treatment approach that potentially revives emotional responsiveness in depression, enabling patients to reconnect with their emotions.

Journal article

Erritzoe D, Roseman L, Nour MM, MacLean K, Kaelen M, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris RLet al., 2018, Effects of psilocybin therapy on personality structure, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, Vol: 138, Pages: 368-378, ISSN: 1600-0447

ObjectiveTo explore whether psilocybin with psychological support modulates personality parameters in patients suffering from treatment‐resistant depression (TRD).MethodTwenty 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.ResultsNeuroticism 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.ConclusionOur 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.

Journal article

Lyons T, Carhart-Harris RL, 2018, More realistic forecasting of future life events after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, Frontiers in Psychology, Vol: 9, ISSN: 1664-1078

Background: Evidence suggests that classical psychedelics can promote enduring changes in personality, attitudes and optimism, as well as improvements in mental health outcomes.Aim: To investigate the effects of a composite intervention, involving psilocybin, on pessimism biases in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD).Methods: Patients with TRD (n = 15) and matched, untreated non-depressed controls (n = 15) performed the Prediction Of Future Life Events (POFLE) task. The POFLE task requires participants to predict the likelihood of certain life events occurring within a 30-day period, after which the actual rate of event occurrence is reported; this gives an index of potential pessimism versus optimism bias. Psilocybin was administered in two oral dosing sessions (10 and 25 mg) one week apart. Main outcome measures were collected at baseline and one week after the second dosing session.Results: Patients showed a significant pessimism bias at baseline [t(14) = -3.260, p = 0.006; 95% CI (-0.16, -0.03), g = 1.1] which was related to the severity of their depressive symptoms (rs = -0.55, p = 0.017). One week after psilocybin treatment, this bias was significantly decreased [t(14) = -2.714, p = 0.017; 95% CI (-0.21, -0.02), g = 0.7] and depressive symptoms were greatly improved [t(14) = 7.900, p < 0.001; 95% CI (16.17, 28.23), g = 1.9]; moreover, the magnitude of change in both variables was significantly correlated (r = -0.57, p = 0.014). Importantly, post treatment, patients became significantly more accurate at predicting the occurrence of future life events [t(14) = 1.857, p = 0.042; 95% CI (-0.01, 0.12), g = 0.6] whereas no such change was observed in the control subjects.Conclusion: These findings suggest that psilocybin with psychological support might correct pessimism biases in TRD, enabling a more positive and accurate outlook.

Journal article

Deco G, Cruzat J, Cabral J, Knudsen GM, Carhart-Harris RL, Whybrow PC, Logothetis NK, Kringelbach MLet al., 2018, Whole-Brain Multimodal Neuroimaging Model Using Serotonin Receptor Maps Explains Non-linear Functional Effects of LSD, CURRENT BIOLOGY, Vol: 28, Pages: 3065-+, ISSN: 0960-9822

Journal article

Timmermann C, Timmermann Slater C, Roseman L, Williams L, Erritzoe D, Martial C, Cassol H, Laureys S, Nutt D, Carhart-Harris Ret al., 2018, DMT models the near-death experience, Frontiers in Psychology, Vol: 9, ISSN: 1664-1078

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are complex subjective experiences, which have been previously associated with the psychedelic experience and more specifically with the experience induced by the potent serotonergic, N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Potential similarities between both subjective states have been noted previously, including the subjective feeling of transcending one’s body and entering an alternative realm, perceiving and communicating with sentient ‘entities’ and themes related to death and dying. In this within-subjects placebo-controled study we aimed to test the similarities between the DMT state and NDEs, by administering DMT and placebo to 13 healthy participants, who then completed a validated and widely used measure of NDEs. Results revealed significant increases in phenomenological features associated with the NDE, following DMT administration compared to placebo. Also, we found significant relationships between the NDE scores and DMT-induced ego-dissolution and mystical-type experiences, as well as a significant association between NDE scores and baseline trait ‘absorption’ and delusional ideation measured at baseline. Furthermore, we found a significant overlap in nearly all of the NDE phenomenological features when comparing DMT-induced NDEs with a matched group of ‘actual’ NDE experiencers. These results reveal a striking similarity between these states that warrants further investigation.

Journal article

Lyons T, Carhart-Harris RL, 2018, Increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarian political views after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, Journal of Psychopharmacology, Vol: 32, Pages: 811-819, ISSN: 1461-7285

Rationale:Previous research suggests that classical psychedelic compounds can induce lasting changes in personality traits, attitudes and beliefs in both healthy subjects and patient populations.Aim:Here we sought to investigate the effects of psilocybin on nature relatedness and libertarian–authoritarian political perspective in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD).Methods:This open-label pilot study with a mixed-model design studied the effects of psilocybin on measures of nature relatedness and libertarian–authoritarian political perspective in patients with moderate to severe TRD (n=7) versus age-matched non-treated healthy control subjects (n=7). Psilocybin was administered in two oral dosing sessions (10 mg and 25 mg) 1 week apart. Main outcome measures were collected 1 week and 7–12 months after the second dosing session. Nature relatedness and libertarian–authoritarian political perspective were assessed using the Nature Relatedness Scale (NR-6) and Political Perspective Questionnaire (PPQ-5), respectively.Results:Nature relatedness significantly increased (t(6)=−4.242, p=0.003) and authoritarianism significantly decreased (t(6)=2.120, p=0.039) for the patients 1 week after the dosing sessions. At 7–12 months post-dosing, nature relatedness remained significantly increased (t(5)=−2.707, p=0.021) and authoritarianism remained decreased at trend level (t(5)=−1.811, p=0.065). No differences were found on either measure for the non-treated healthy control subjects.Conclusions:This pilot study suggests that psilocybin with psychological support might produce lasting changes in attitudes and beliefs. Although it would be premature to infer causality from this small study, the possibility of drug-induced changes in belief systems seems sufficiently intriguing and timely to deserve further investigation.

Journal article

Carhart-Harris RL, Roseman L, Haijen E, Erritzoe D, Watts R, Branchi I, Kaelen Met al., 2018, Psychedelics and the essential importance of context, JOURNAL OF PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY, Vol: 32, Pages: 725-731, ISSN: 0269-8811

Journal article

Gabay AS, Carhart-Harris RL, Mazibuko N, Kempton MJ, Morrison PD, Nutt DJ, Mehta MAet al., 2018, Psilocybin and MDMA reduce costly punishment in the Ultimatum Game, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, Vol: 8, ISSN: 2045-2322

Disruptions in social decision-making are becoming evident in many psychiatric conditions. These are studied using paradigms investigating the psychological mechanisms underlying interpersonal interactions, such as the Ultimatum Game (UG). Rejection behaviour in the UG represents altruistic punishment – the costly punishment of norm violators – but the mechanisms underlying it require clarification. To investigate the psychopharmacology of UG behaviour, we carried out two studies with healthy participants, employing serotonergic agonists: psilocybin (open-label, within-participant design, N = 19) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover design, N = 20). We found that both MDMA and psilocybin reduced rejection of unfair offers (odds ratio: 0.57 and 0.42, respectively). The reduction in rejection rate following MDMA was associated with increased prosociality (R2 = 0.26, p = 0.025). In the MDMA study, we investigated third-party decision-making and proposer behaviour. MDMA did not reduce rejection in the third-party condition, but produced an increase in the amount offered to others (Cohen’s d = 0.82). We argue that these compounds altered participants’ conceptualisation of ‘social reward’, placing more emphasis on the direct relationship with interacting partners. With these compounds showing efficacy in drug-assisted psychotherapy, these studies are an important step in the further characterisation of their psychological effects.

Journal article

Carrillo F, Sigman M, Fernandez Slezak D, Ashton P, Fitzgerald L, Stroud J, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris RLet al., 2018, Natural speech algorithm applied to baseline interview data can predict which patients will respond to psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, JOURNAL OF AFFECTIVE DISORDERS, Vol: 230, Pages: 84-86, ISSN: 0165-0327

Journal article

Kaelen M, Giribaldi B, Raine J, Evans L, Timmermann C, Rodriguez N, Roseman L, Feilding A, Nutt D, Carhart-Harris Ret al., 2018, Correction to: The hidden therapist: evidence for a central role of music in psychedelic therapy., Psychopharmacology, Vol: 235, Pages: 1623-1623, ISSN: 0033-3158

The article The hidden therapist: evidence for a central role of music in psychedelic therapy, written by Mendel Kaelen, Bruna Giribaldi, Jordan Raine, Lisa Evans, Christopher Timmerman, Natalie Rodriguez, Leor Roseman, Amanda Feilding, David Nutt, Robin Carhart-Harris, was originally published electronically on the publisher's internet portal.

Journal article

Kaelen M, Giribaldi B, Raine J, Evans L, Timmerman C, Rodriguez N, Roseman L, Feilding A, Nutt D, Carhart-Harris Ret al., 2018, The hidden therapist: evidence for a central role of music in psychedelic therapy, PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY, Vol: 235, Pages: 505-519, ISSN: 0033-3158

RationaleRecent 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.ObjectivesThe present study assessed the influence of music on the acute experience and clinical outcomes of psychedelic therapy.MethodsSemi-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).ResultsAnalyses 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.ConclusionsThis study indicates that music plays a central therapeutic function in psychedelic therapy.

Journal article

Carhart-Harris RL, Erritzoe D, Haijen E, Kaelen M, Watts Ret al., 2018, Psychedelics and connectedness, PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY, Vol: 235, Pages: 547-550, ISSN: 0033-3158

Journal article

Roseman L, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris RL, 2018, Quality of acute psychedelic experience predicts therapeutic efficacy of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, Frontiers in Pharmacology, Vol: 8, ISSN: 1663-9812

Introduction: It is a basic principle of the ‘psychedelic’ treatment model that the quality of the acute experience mediateslong-term improvements in mental health. In the present paper we sought to test this using data from a clinical trial assessingpsilocybin for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). In line with previous reports, we hypothesized that the occurrence andmagnitude of Oceanic Boundlessness (OBN) (sharing features with mystical-type experience) and Dread of Ego Dissolution (DED)(similar to anxiety) would predict long-term positive outcomes, whereas sensory perceptual effects would not.Material and Methods: Twenty patients with treatment resistant depression underwent treatment with psilocybin (two separatesessions: 10mg and 25mg psilocybin). The Altered States of Consciousness (ASC) questionnaire was used to assess the quality ofexperiences in the 25mg psilocybin session. From the ASC, the dimensions OBN and DED were used to measure the mystical-typeand challenging experiences, respectively. The Self-Reported Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms (QIDS-SR) at 5 weeks servedas the endpoint clinical outcome measure, as in later time points some of the subjects had gone on to receive new treatments,thus confounding inferences. In a repeated measure ANOVA, Time was the within-subject factor (independent variable), withQIDS-SR as the within-subject dependent variable in baseline, 1-day, 1-week, 5-weeks. OBN and DED were independent variables.OBN-by-time and DED-by-time interactions were the primary outcomes of interest.Results: For the interaction of OBN and DED with Time (QIDS-SR as dependent variable), the main effect and the effects at each timepoint compared to baseline were all significant (p = 0.002 and p = 0.003, respectively, for main effects), confirming our mainhypothesis. Furthermore, Pearson’s correlation of OBN with QIDS-SR (5 weeks) was specific compared to perceptual dimensions ofthe ASC (p < 0.05).Discussion: This repo

Journal article

Carhart-Harris RL, Bolstridge M, Day CMJ, Rucker J, Watts R, Erritzoe DE, Kaelen M, Giribaldi B, Bloomfield M, Pilling S, Rickard JA, Forbes B, Feilding A, Taylor D, Curran HV, Nutt DJet al., 2017, Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six-month follow-up, Psychopharmacology, Vol: 235, Pages: 399-408, ISSN: 0033-3158

RATIONALE: Recent clinical trials are reporting marked improvements in mental health outcomes with psychedelic drug-assisted psychotherapy. OBJECTIVES: Here, we report on safety and efficacy outcomes for up to 6 months in an open-label trial of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. METHODS: Twenty patients (six females) with (mostly) severe, unipolar, treatment-resistant major depression received two oral doses of psilocybin (10 and 25 mg, 7 days apart) in a supportive setting. Depressive symptoms were assessed from 1 week to 6 months post-treatment, with the self-rated QIDS-SR16 as the primary outcome measure. RESULTS: Treatment was generally well tolerated. Relative to baseline, marked reductions in depressive symptoms were observed for the first 5 weeks post-treatment (Cohen's d = 2.2 at week 1 and 2.3 at week 5, both p < 0.001); nine and four patients met the criteria for response and remission at week 5. Results remained positive at 3 and 6 months (Cohen's d = 1.5 and 1.4, respectively, both p < 0.001). No patients sought conventional antidepressant treatment within 5 weeks of psilocybin. Reductions in depressive symptoms at 5 weeks were predicted by the quality of the acute psychedelic experience. CONCLUSIONS: Although limited conclusions can be drawn about treatment efficacy from open-label trials, tolerability was good, effect sizes large and symptom improvements appeared rapidly after just two psilocybin treatment sessions and remained significant 6 months post-treatment in a treatment-resistant cohort. Psilocybin represents a promising paradigm for unresponsive depression that warrants further research in double-blind randomised control trials.

Journal article

Timmermann C, Spriggs MJ, Kaelen M, Leech R, Nutt DJ, Moran RJ, Carhart-Harris RL, Muthukumaraswamy SDet al., 2017, LSD modulates effective connectivity and neural adaptation mechanisms in an auditory oddball paradigm., Neuropharmacology, ISSN: 0028-3908

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.

Journal article

Stroud JB, Freeman TP, Leech R, Hindocha C, Lawn W, Nutt DJ, Curran HV, Carhart-Harris RLet al., 2017, Psilocybin with psychological support improves emotional face recognition in treatment-resistant depression, Psychopharmacology, Vol: 235, Pages: 459-466, ISSN: 0033-3158

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.

Journal article

Carhart-Harris RL, Roseman L, Bolstridge M, Demetriou L, Pannekoek JN, Wall MB, Tanner M, Kaelen M, McGonigle J, Murphy K, Leech R, Curran HV, Nutt DJet al., 2017, Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms, Scientific Reports, Vol: 7, ISSN: 2045-2322

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.

Journal article

Watts R, Day C, Krzanowski J, Nutt D, Carhart-Harris Ret al., 2017, Patients' Accounts of Increased "Connectedness" and "Acceptance" After Psilocybin for Treatment-Resistant Depression, JOURNAL OF HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY, Vol: 57, Pages: 520-564, ISSN: 0022-1678

Journal article

Carhart-Harris RL, Nutt D, 2017, Serotonin and brain function: a tale of two receptors, Journal of Psychopharmacology, Vol: 31, Pages: 1091-1120, ISSN: 1461-7285

Previous attempts to identify a unified theory of brain serotonin function have largely failed to achieve consensus. In this present synthesis, we integrate previous perspectives with new and older data to create a novel bipartite model centred on the view that serotonin neurotransmission enhances two distinct adaptive responses to adversity, mediated in large part by its two most prevalent and researched brain receptors: the 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors. We propose that passive coping (i.e. tolerating a source of stress) is mediated by postsynaptic 5-HT1AR signalling and characterised by stress moderation. Conversely, we argue that active coping (i.e. actively addressing a source of stress) is mediated by 5-HT2AR signalling and characterised by enhanced plasticity (defined as capacity for change). We propose that 5-HT1AR-mediated stress moderation may be the brain’s default response to adversity but that an improved ability to change one’s situation and/or relationship to it via 5-HT2AR-mediated plasticity may also be important – and increasingly so as the level of adversity reaches a critical point. We propose that the 5HT1AR pathway is enhanced by conventional 5-HT reuptake blocking antidepressants such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), whereas the 5-HT2AR pathway is enhanced by 5-HT2AR-agonist psychedelics. This bipartite model purports to explain how different drugs (SSRIs and psychedelics) that modulate the serotonergic system in different ways, can achieve complementary adaptive and potentially therapeutic outcomes.

Journal article

Carhart-Harris R, Lawton G, 2017, Trip advisor, NEW SCIENTIST, Vol: 235, Pages: 42-43, ISSN: 0262-4079

Journal article

Erritzoe D, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris R, 2017, Concerns regarding conclusions made about LSD-treatments, HISTORY OF PSYCHIATRY, Vol: 28, Pages: 257-258, ISSN: 0957-154X

Journal article

Carhart-Harris RL, Goodwin GM, 2017, The therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs: past, present and future, Neuropsychopharmacology, Vol: 42, Pages: 2105-2113, ISSN: 1740-634X

Plant-based psychedelics, such as psilocybin, have an ancient history of medicinal use. After the first English language report on LSD in 1950, psychedelics enjoyed a short-lived relationship with psychology and psychiatry. Used most notably as aids to psychotherapy for the treatment of mood disorders and alcohol dependence, drugs such as LSD showed initial therapeutic promise before prohibitive legislature in the mid-1960s effectively ended all major psychedelic research programs. Since the early 1990s, there has been a steady revival of human psychedelic research: last year saw reports on the first modern brain imaging study with LSD and three separate clinical trials of psilocybin for depressive symptoms. In this circumspective piece, RLC-H and GMG share their opinions on the promises and pitfalls of renewed psychedelic research, with a focus on the development of psilocybin as a treatment for depression.

Journal article

Nour MM, Evans L, Carhart-Harris RL, 2017, Psychedelics, Personality and Political Perspectives, JOURNAL OF PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS, Vol: 49, Pages: 182-191, ISSN: 0279-1072

Journal article

Schartner MM, Carhart-Harris RL, Barrett AB, Seth AK, Muthukumaraswamy SDet al., 2017, Increased spontaneous MEG signal diversity for psychoactive doses of ketamine, LSD and psilocybin, Scientific Reports, Vol: 7, ISSN: 2045-2322

What is the level of consciousness of the psychedelic state? Empirically, measures of neural signal diversity such as entropy and Lempel-Ziv (LZ) complexity score higher for wakeful rest than for states with lower conscious level like propofol-induced anesthesia. Here we compute these measures for spontaneous magnetoencephalographic (MEG) signals from humans during altered states of consciousness induced by three psychedelic substances: psilocybin, ketamine and LSD. For all three, we find reliably higher spontaneous signal diversity, even when controlling for spectral changes. This increase is most pronounced for the single-channel LZ complexity measure, and hence for temporal, as opposed to spatial, signal diversity. We also uncover selective correlations between changes in signal diversity and phenomenological reports of the intensity of psychedelic experience. This is the first time that these measures have been applied to the psychedelic state and, crucially, that they have yielded values exceeding those of normal waking consciousness. These findings suggest that the sustained occurrence of psychedelic phenomenology constitutes an elevated level of consciousness - as measured by neural signal diversity.

Journal article

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