Dynamical exploration of the repertoire of brain networks at rest is modulated by psilocybin

This experiment measured brain states (fMRI) under psilocybin infusion, and found more general coherence (communication) and lower frontoparietal network activity.

This paper used the same methods (but new participants) as ‘Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin‘ (Carhart-Harris et al, 2012).

Quick Take

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.

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