Effects of ketamine on brain function during metacognition of episodic memory

This double-blind placebo-controlled fMRI study (n=53) on ketamine (r-ketamine, continuous iv) and cognition found that ketamine increased metacognitive bias, negatively impacted metacognitive sensitivity, and increased activation of posterior brain areas.


“Only little research has been conducted on the pharmacological underpinnings of metacognition. Here, we tested the modulatory effects of a single intravenous dose (100 ng/ml) of the N-methyl-D-aspartate-glutamate-receptor antagonist ketamine, a compound known to induce altered states of consciousness, on metacognition and its neural correlates. Fifty-three young, healthy adults completed two study phases of an episodic memory task involving both encoding and retrieval in a double-blind, placebo-controlled fMRI study. Trial-by-trial confidence ratings were collected during retrieval. Effects on the subjective state of consciousness were assessed using the 5D-ASC questionnaire. Confirming that the drug elicited a psychedelic state, there were effects of ketamine on all 5D-ASC scales. Acute ketamine administration during retrieval had deleterious effects on metacognitive sensitivity (meta-d′) and led to larger metacognitive bias, with retrieval performance (d′) and reaction times remaining unaffected. However, there was no ketamine effect on metacognitive efficiency (meta-d′/d′). Measures of the BOLD signal revealed that ketamine compared to placebo elicited higher activation of posterior cortical brain areas, including superior and inferior parietal lobe, calcarine gyrus, and lingual gyrus, albeit not specific to metacognitive confidence ratings. Ketamine administered during encoding did not significantly affect performance or brain activation. Overall, our findings suggest that ketamine impacts metacognition, leading to significantly larger metacognitive bias and deterioration of metacognitive sensitivity as well as unspecific activation increases in posterior hot zone areas of the neural correlates of consciousness.”

Authors: Mirko Lehmann, Claudia Neumann, Sven Wasserthal, Johannes Schultz, Achilles Delis, Peter Trautner, René Hurlemann & Ulrich Ettinger

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