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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007 Sep;32(9):1876-87. Epub 2007 Feb 14.

The effects of the preferential 5-HT2A agonist psilocybin on prepulse inhibition of startle in healthy human volunteers depend on interstimulus interval.

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University Hospital of Psychiatry, Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging & Heffter Research Center, Lenggstrasse 31, CH-8032 Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


Schizophrenia patients exhibit impairments in prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle response. Hallucinogenic 5-HT(2A) receptor agonists are used for animal models of schizophrenia because they mimic some symptoms of schizophrenia in humans and induce PPI deficits in animals. Nevertheless, one report indicates that the 5-HT(2A) receptor agonist psilocybin increases PPI in healthy humans. Hence, we investigated these inconsistent results by assessing the dose-dependent effects of psilocybin on PPI in healthy humans. Sixteen subjects each received placebo or 115, 215, and 315 microg/kg of psilocybin at 4-week intervals in a randomized and counterbalanced order. PPI at 30-, 60-, 120-, 240-, and 2000-ms interstimulus intervals (ISIs) was measured 90 and 165 min after drug intake, coinciding with the peak and post-peak effects of psilocybin. The effects of psilocybin on psychopathological core dimensions and sustained attention were assessed by the Altered States of Consciousness Rating Scale (5D-ASC) and the Frankfurt Attention Inventory (FAIR). Psilocybin dose-dependently reduced PPI at short (30 ms), had no effect at medium (60 ms), and increased PPI at long (120-2000 ms) ISIs, without affecting startle reactivity or habituation. Psilocybin dose-dependently impaired sustained attention and increased all 5D-ASC scores with exception of Auditory Alterations. Moreover, psilocybin-induced impairments in sustained attention performance were positively correlated with reduced PPI at the 30 ms ISI and not with the concomitant increases in PPI observed at long ISIs. These results confirm the psilocybin-induced increase in PPI at long ISIs and reveal that psilocybin also produces a decrease in PPI at short ISIs that is correlated with impaired attention and consistent with deficient PPI in schizophrenia.

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