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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Oct;232(19):3663-76. doi: 10.1007/s00213-015-4026-7. Epub 2015 Aug 1.

Psilocybin-induced spiritual experiences and insightfulness are associated with synchronization of neuronal oscillations.

Author information

1
Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich, Lenggstrasse 31, CH-8032, Zurich, Switzerland, mikometer@gmail.com.

Abstract

RATIONALE:

During the last years, considerable progress has been made toward understanding the neuronal basis of consciousness by using sophisticated behavioral tasks, brain-imaging techniques, and various psychoactive drugs. Nevertheless, the neuronal mechanisms underlying some of the most intriguing states of consciousness, including spiritual experiences, remain unknown.

OBJECTIVES:

To elucidate state of consciousness-related neuronal mechanisms, human subjects were given psilocybin, a naturally occurring serotonergic agonist and hallucinogen that has been used for centuries to induce spiritual experiences in religious and medical rituals.

METHODS:

In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 50 healthy human volunteers received a moderate dose of psilocybin, while high-density electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings were taken during eyes-open and eyes-closed resting states. The current source density and the lagged phase synchronization of neuronal oscillations across distributed brain regions were computed and correlated with psilocybin-induced altered states of consciousness.

RESULTS:

Psilocybin decreased the current source density of neuronal oscillations at 1.5-20 Hz within a neural network comprising the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices and the parahippocampal regions. Most intriguingly, the intensity levels of psilocybin-induced spiritual experience and insightfulness correlated with the lagged phase synchronization of delta oscillations (1.5-4 Hz) between the retrosplenial cortex, the parahippocampus, and the lateral orbitofrontal area.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results provide systematic evidence for the direct association of a specific spatiotemporal neuronal mechanism with spiritual experiences and enhanced insight into life and existence. The identified mechanism may constitute a pathway for modulating mental health, as spiritual experiences can promote sustained well-being and psychological resilience.

PMID:
26231498
DOI:
10.1007/s00213-015-4026-7
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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