Neuroimaging in psychedelic drug development: Past, present, and future

This preprint (2022) reviews the use of neuroimaging techniques in the development of psychedelic therapy using existing data and suggests that the modern development of psychedelic therapy has benefitted greatly from these techniques. It is suggested that current knowledge gaps in the field could be addressed using combined Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) methods, plus other adjunct techniques.


“Psychedelic therapy (PT) is an emerging paradigm with great transdiagnostic potential for treating a range of psychiatric disorders, including depression, addiction, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others. ‘Classic’ serotonergic psychedelics, such as psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), form the main focus of this movement, but other substances including ketamine, 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and ibogaine also hold promise. The development of these novel treatment modalities in the early 21st century has occurred concurrently with the wider use of advanced human neuroscientific research methods; principally neuroimaging. This has enabled assessment of drug and therapy brain effects with greater precision and quantification than any previous novel development in psychiatric pharmacology. We outline some of the major trends in existing data and suggest that the modern development of PT has benefitted greatly from the use of neuroimaging. Important gaps in existing knowledge are identified which can be addressed by future neuroimaging work, principally using combined Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) methods, plus other adjunct techniques. Suggestions for future multimodal imaging studies are discussed, which would resolve some of these questions and provide a firmer foundation for the development of PT.”

Authors: Matthew B. Wall, Rebecca Harding, Rayyan Zafar, Eugenii A. Rabiner, David Erritzoe & David J. Nutt

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Study details

Topics studied
Neuroscience Technology

Study characteristics
Literature Review


Authors associated with this publication with profiles on Blossom

David Erritzoe
David Erritzoe is the clinical director of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London. His work focuses on brain imaging (PET/(f)MRI).

David Nutt
David John Nutt is a great advocate for looking at drugs and their harm objectively and scientifically. This got him dismissed as ACMD (Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs) chairman.


Institutes associated with this publication

Imperial College London
The Centre for Psychedelic Research studies the action (in the brain) and clinical use of psychedelics, with a focus on depression.

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