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  • Journal article
    Barba T, Kettner H, Radu C, Peill J, Roseman L, Nutt D, Erritzoe D, Carhart-Harris R, Cunha Bet al., 2024,

    Psychedelics and sexual functioning: a mixed-methods study

    , Scientific Reports, Vol: 14, ISSN: 2045-2322

    Do psychedelics affect sexual functioning postacutely? Anecdotal and qualitative evidence suggests they do, but this has never been formally tested. While sexual functioning and satisfaction are generally regarded as an important aspect of human wellbeing, sexual dysfunction is a common symptom of mental health disorders. It is also a common side effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a first line treatment for depression. The aim of the present paper was to investigate the post-acute effects of psychedelics on self-reported sexual functioning, combining data from two independent studies, one large and naturalistic and the other a smaller but controlled clinical trial. Naturalistic use of psychedelics was associated with improvements in several facets of sexual functioning and satisfaction, including improved pleasure and communication during sex, satisfaction with one’s partner and physical appearance. Convergent results were found in a controlled trial of psilocybin therapy versus an SSRI, escitalopram, for depression. In this trial, patients treated with psilocybin reported positive changes in sexual functioning after treatment, while patients treated with escitalopram did not. Despite focusing on different populations and settings, this is the first research study to quantitively investigate the effects of psychedelics on sexual functioning. Results imply a potential positive effect on post-acute sexual functioning and highlight the need for more research on this.

  • Journal article
    Mediano PAM, Rosas FE, Timmermann C, Roseman L, Nutt DJ, Feilding A, Kaelen M, Kringelbach ML, Barrett AB, Seth AK, Muthukumaraswamy S, Bor D, Carhart-Harris RLet al., 2024,

    Effects of External Stimulation on Psychedelic State Neurodynamics.

    , ACS Chem Neurosci, Vol: 15, Pages: 462-471

    Recent findings have shown that psychedelics reliably enhance brain entropy (understood as neural signal diversity), and this effect has been associated with both acute and long-term psychological outcomes, such as personality changes. These findings are particularly intriguing, given that a decrease of brain entropy is a robust indicator of loss of consciousness (e.g., from wakefulness to sleep). However, little is known about how context impacts the entropy-enhancing effect of psychedelics, which carries important implications for how it can be exploited in, for example, psychedelic psychotherapy. This article investigates how brain entropy is modulated by stimulus manipulation during a psychedelic experience by studying participants under the effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or placebo, either with gross state changes (eyes closed vs open) or different stimuli (no stimulus vs music vs video). Results show that while brain entropy increases with LSD under all of the experimental conditions, it exhibits the largest changes when subjects have their eyes closed. Furthermore, brain entropy changes are consistently associated with subjective ratings of the psychedelic experience, but this relationship is disrupted when participants are viewing a video─potentially due to a "competition" between external stimuli and endogenous LSD-induced imagery. Taken together, our findings provide strong quantitative evidence of the role of context in modulating neural dynamics during a psychedelic experience, underlining the importance of performing psychedelic psychotherapy in a suitable environment.

  • Journal article
    Murphy RJ, Godfrey K, Shaw AD, Muthukumaraswamy S, Sumner RLet al., 2024,

    Modulation of long-term potentiation following microdoses of LSD captured by thalamo-cortical modelling in a randomised, controlled trial.

    , BMC Neurosci, Vol: 25

    BACKGROUND: Microdosing psychedelics is a phenomenon with claimed cognitive benefits that are relatively untested clinically. Pre-clinically, psychedelics have demonstrated enhancing effects on neuroplasticity, which cannot be measured directly in humans, but may be indexed by non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG) paradigms. This study used a visual long-term potentiation (LTP) EEG paradigm to test the effects of microdosed lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on neural plasticity, both acutely while on the drug and cumulatively after microdosing every third day for six weeks. Healthy adult males (n = 80) completed the visual LTP paradigm at baseline, 2.5 h following a dose of 10 µg of LSD or inactive placebo, and 6 weeks later after taking 14 repeated microdoses. Visually induced LTP was used as indirect index of neural plasticity. Surface level event-related potential (ERPs) based analyses are presented alongside dynamic causal modelling of the source localised data using a generative thalamocortical model (TCM) of visual cortex to elucidate underlying synaptic circuitry. RESULTS: Event-related potential (ERP) analyses of N1b and P2 components did not show evidence of changes in visually induced LTP by LSD either acutely or after 6 weeks of regular dosing. However modelling the complete timecourse of the ERP with the TCM demonstrated changes in laminar connectivity in primary visual cortex. This primarily included changes to self-gain and inhibitory input parameters acutely. Layer 2/3 to layer 5 excitatory connectivity was also different between LSD and placebo groups. After regular dosing only excitatory input from layer 2/3 into layer 5 and inhibitory input into layer 4 were different between groups. CONCLUSIONS: Without modulation of the ERPs it is difficult to relate the findings to other studies visually inducing LTP. It also indicates the classic peak analysis may not be sensitive enough to demonstrate evidence for changes

  • Journal article
    Barbut Siva J, Barba T, Kettner H, Kuc J, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris R, Erritzoe Det al., 2024,

    Interactions between classic psychedelics and serotonergic antidepressants: Effects on the acute psychedelic subjective experience, well-being and depressive symptoms from a prospective survey study.

    , J Psychopharmacol, Vol: 38, Pages: 145-155

    BACKGROUND: There is growing evidence for the therapeutic effects of psychedelics. However, it is still uncertain how these drugs interact with serotonergic antidepressants (serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs)). OBJECTIVE: This study explores the interaction between psychedelics and SRIs in terms of therapeutic effects. The objective is to compare acute psychedelic effects and subsequent changes in well-being and depressive symptoms among 'SRI -' individuals (not on psychiatric medication) and 'SRI +' individuals (undergoing SRI treatment). METHODS: Using prospective survey data, the study employs multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) and linear mixed effect models to analyse subjective differences and changes in well-being and depressive symptoms pre- and post-psychedelic experiences. RESULTS: Results indicate that 'SRI -' participants experience significantly more intense subjective effects compared to 'SRI +' participants (F = 3.200, p = 0.016) in MANCOVA analysis. Further analysis reveals 'SRI -' individuals report stronger mystical (18.2% higher, p = 0.048), challenging (50.9% higher, p = 0.001) and emotional breakthrough experiences (31.9% higher, p = 0.02) than 'SRI +' individuals. No differences are observed in drug-induced visual effects (p = 0.19). Both groups exhibited similar improvements in well-being and depressive symptoms after the psychedelic experience. CONCLUSION: Individuals presumed to be on serotonergic antidepressants during psychedelic use display reduced subjective effects but similar antidepressant effects compared to those not undergoing SRI treatment. Further controlled research is needed to comprehend the interplay between serotonergic antidepressants and psychedelics, illuminating potential therapeutic benefits and limitations in clinical contexts.

  • Journal article
    Szigeti B, Weiss B, Rosas FE, Erritzoe D, Nutt D, Carhart-Harris Ret al., 2024,

    Assessing expectancy and suggestibility in a trial of escitalopram v. psilocybin for depression.

    , Psychol Med, Pages: 1-8

    BACKGROUND: To investigate the association between pre-trial expectancy, suggestibility, and response to treatment in a trial of escitalopram and investigational drug, COMP360, psilocybin, in the treatment of major depressive disorder ( registration: NCT03429075). METHODS: We used data (n = 55) from our recent double-blind, parallel-group, randomized head-to-head comparison trial of escitalopram and investigational drug, COMP360, psilocybin. Mixed linear models were used to investigate the association between pre-treatment efficacy-related expectations, as well as baseline trait suggestibility and absorption, and therapeutic response to both escitalopram and COMP360 psilocybin. RESULTS: Patients had significantly higher expectancy for psilocybin relative to escitalopram; however, expectancy for escitalopram was associated with improved therapeutic outcomes to escitalopram, expectancy for psilocybin was not predictive of response to psilocybin. Separately, we found that pre-treatment trait suggestibility was associated with therapeutic response in the psilocybin arm, but not in the escitalopram arm. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, our results suggest that psychedelic therapy may be less vulnerable to expectancy biases than previously suspected. The relationship between baseline trait suggestibility and response to psilocybin therapy implies that highly suggestible individuals may be primed for response to this treatment.

  • Journal article
    Weiss B, Roseman L, Giribaldi B, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris RL, Erritzoe Det al., 2024,

    Unique Psychological Mechanisms Underlying Psilocybin Therapy Versus Escitalopram Treatment in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder

    , International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, ISSN: 1557-1874

    The mechanisms by which Psilocybin Therapy (PT) improves depression remain an important object of study, with scientists actively exploring acute psychological experiences and neurobiological processes as candidates. In a phase 2, double-blind, randomized, active comparator controlled trial involving patients with moderate-to-severe major depressive disorder, we investigated whether acute psychological experiences could meaningfully account for the unique efficacy of PT versus Escitalopram Treatment over a core 6-week trial period. An exploratory-factor-analysis-derived single-factor of depression was used as the outcome. Among a comprehensive set of acute experiences related to psilocybin, so-called “mystical experience” and “ego dissolution” were unique in mediating the effect of treatment condition on depressive response with high specificity. Higher reported levels of mystical experience, emotional breakthrough, and intense responses to music-listening were furthermore associated with greater antidepressant response. These results provide qualified support for the causal mechanistic role of acute psychological experiences in the treatment of depression via PT.

  • Journal article
    Weiss B, Ginige I, Shannon L, Giribaldi B, Murphy-Beiner A, Murphy R, Baker-Jones M, Martell J, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris RL, Erritzoe Det al., 2024,

    Personality change in a trial of psilocybin therapy vs escitalopram treatment for depression

    , Psychological Medicine, Vol: 54, Pages: 178-192, ISSN: 0033-2917

    Background:Psilocybin Therapy (PT) is being increasingly studied as a psychiatric intervention. Personality relates to mental health and can be used to probe the nature of PT's therapeutic action.Methods:In a phase 2, double-blind, randomized, active comparator controlled trial involving patients with moderate-to-severe major depressive disorder, we compared psilocybin with escitalopram, over a core 6-week trial period. Five-Factor model personality domains, Big Five Aspect Scale Openness aspects, Absorption, and Impulsivity were measured at Baseline, Week 6, and Month 6 follow-up.Results:PT was associated with decreases in neuroticism (B = −0.63), introversion (B = −0.38), disagreeableness (B = −0.47), impulsivity (B = −0.40), and increases in absorption (B = 0.32), conscientiousness (B = 0.30), and openness (B = 0.23) at week 6, with neuroticism (B = −0.47) and disagreeableness (B = −0.41) remaining decreased at month 6. Escitalopram Treatment (ET) was associated with decreases in neuroticism (B = −0.38), disagreeableness (B = −0.26), impulsivity (B = −0.35), and increases in openness (B = 0.28) at week 6, with neuroticism (B = −0.46) remaining decreased at month 6. No significant between-condition differences were observed.Conclusions:Personality changes across both conditions were in a direction consistent with improved mental health. With the possible exception of trait absorption, there were no compelling between-condition differences warranting conclusions regarding a selective action of PT (v. ET) on personality; however, post-ET changes in personality were significantly moderated by pre-trial positive expectancy for escitalopram, whereas expectancy did not moderate response to PT.

  • Journal article
    Weiss B, Ginige I, Shannon L, Giribaldi B, Murphy-Beiner A, Murphy R, Baker-Jones M, Martell J, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris RL, Erritzoe Det al., 2024,

    Personality Change in a Trial of Psilocybin Therapy vs Escitalopram Treatment for Depression - CORRIGENDUM.

    , Psychol Med, Vol: 54
  • Journal article
    Luan LX, Eckernäs E, Ashton M, Rosas FE, Uthaug MV, Bartha A, Jagger S, Gascon-Perai K, Gomes L, Nutt DJ, Erritzøe D, Carhart-Harris RL, Timmermann Cet al., 2024,

    Psychological and physiological effects of extended DMT.

    , J Psychopharmacol, Vol: 38, Pages: 56-67

    N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a serotonergic psychedelic that induces a rapid and transient altered state of consciousness when inhaled or injected via bolus administration. Its marked and novel subjective effects make DMT a powerful tool for the neuroscientific study of consciousness and preliminary results show its potential role in treating mental health conditions. In a within-subjects, placebo-controlled study, we investigated a novel method of DMT administration involving a bolus injection paired with a constant-rate infusion, with the goal of extending the DMT experience. Pharmacokinetic parameters of DMT estimated from plasma data of a previous study of bolus intravenous DMT were used to derive dose regimens necessary to keep subjects in steady levels of immersion into the DMT experience over an extended period of 30 min, and four dose regimens consisting of a bolus loading dose and a slow-rate infusion were tested in eleven healthy volunteers (seven male, four female, mean age ± SD = 37.09 ± 8.93 years). The present method is effective for extending the DMT experience in a stable and tolerable fashion. While subjective effects were maintained over the period of active infusion, anxiety ratings remained low and heart rate habituated within 15 min, indicating psychological and physiological safety of extended DMT. Plasma DMT concentrations increased consistently starting 10 min into DMT administration, whereas psychological effects plateaued into the desired steady state, suggesting the development of acute psychological tolerance to DMT. Taken together, these findings demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of continuous IV DMT administration, laying the groundwork for the further development of this method of administration for basic and clinical research.

  • Journal article
    Luppi AI, Girn M, Rosas FE, Timmermann C, Roseman L, Erritzoe D, Nutt DJ, Stamatakis EA, Spreng RN, Xing L, Huttner WB, Carhart-Harris RLet al., 2024,

    A role for the serotonin 2A receptor in the expansion and functioning of human transmodal cortex

    , Brain: a journal of neurology, Vol: 147, Pages: 56-80, ISSN: 0006-8950

    Integrating independent but converging lines of research on brain function and neurodevelopment across scales, this article proposes that serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR) signaling is an evolutionary and developmental driver and potent modulator of the macroscale functional organization of the human cerebral cortex. A wealth of evidence indicates that the anatomical and functional organization of the cortex follows a unimodal-to-transmodal gradient. Situated at the apex of this processing hierarchy - where it plays a central role in the integrative processes underpinning complex, human-defining cognition - the transmodal cortex has disproportionately expanded across human development and evolution. Notably, the adult human transmodal cortex is especially rich in 5-HT2AR expression, and recent evidence suggests that, during early brain development, 5-HT2AR signaling on neural progenitor cells stimulates their proliferation - a critical process for evolutionarily-relevant cortical expansion. Drawing on multimodal neuroimaging and cross-species investigations, we argue that, by contributing to the expansion of the human cortex, and being prevalent at the apex of its hierarchy in the adult brain, 5-HT2AR signaling plays a major role in both human cortical expansion and functioning. Due to its unique excitatory and downstream cellular effects, neuronal 5-HT2AR agonism promotes neuroplasticity, learning, and cognitive and psychological flexibility in a context-(hyper)sensitive manner with therapeutic potential. Overall, we delineate a dual role of 5-HT2ARs in enabling both the expansion and modulation of the human transmodal cortex.

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