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Cognitive benefits of psychedelics -Health

Summary: Researchers are investigating the benefits of psychedelics on cognition, from memory impairment to cognitive creativity.

Source: Cognitive Neuroscience Society

The synthesis of LSD and psilocybin in the early to mid-twentieth century not only spawned a new counterculture in the United States but also a new interest in brain science, particularly the role of neurotransmitters.

Despite these discoveries, research on psychedelics was dormant for decades due to anti-drug attitudes. A recent renaissance in psychedelic research seeks to understand how these drugs can be used as tools in the treatment of mental illness.

Although this work has primarily focused on mathematical modeling and resting-state neuroimaging, it is now shifting: cognitive neuroscientists are bringing new rigor to the field by using behavioral and clinical studies to investigate the cognitive effects of psychedelic drugs.

“Despite the fact that psychedelics have some of the most interesting subjective effects of any psychoactive drug, they generally appear to impair cognition like most psychoactive drugs,” said Johns Hopkins University’s Manoj Doss, who is chairing a symposium on psychedelics and cognition. The Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) Annual Meeting is today in San Francisco.

“One reason for this is that cognitive neuroscientists have been less involved in this work, so when the effects of psychedelics on cognition are measured, the tasks tend to be relatively simple and outdated.”

The landscape of this study is changing rapidly, however, with a wealth of new research, looking at everything from how psychedelics can help explain memory impairment to how psilocybin can enhance the spontaneous creative process.

“There is a huge over-arching gap between our knowledge of psychedelics and cognition,” said Natasha Mason of Maastricht University, who presented the work at the CNS symposium.

“There has been a huge surge of interest in these substances therapeutically, but until now, there has been no neurocognitive account that links acute and persistent psychedelic-induced changes in cognition with long-term therapeutic response.”

Building Creative Cognition

Natasha Mason’s interest in researching psychedelics began like many in neuroscience with a deep desire to better treat brain diseases. Initially pursuing a career in pharmacy, he remembers searching the literature for alternative treatments for mental health disorders and finding a paper on the promise of psychedelics in treating depression and anxiety.

“The literature seemed exciting: one-time intake of psychedelics reduced long-term symptoms. That was unheard of in my pharmacy class,” she says.

“Unfortunately, the science was young, the substances were illegal, and only a few universities could conduct this research.” Mason then decided to go to Maastricht University in the Netherlands to pursue this line of inquiry.

In the new work he is presenting at the CNS Symposium, Mason’s team investigated whether a moderate dose of psilocybin affects creative cognition, looking at both acute and lasting effects.

“I think this is a very exciting study, because despite this historical relationship between psychedelic use and creativity, this is the first modern experiment to assess it in a scientifically rigorous way,” he says.

Indeed, many individuals have described enhanced creative abilities after using psychedelic drugs, and psychedelic-assisted clinical trials have been used to treat a variety of disorders characterized by highly inflexible thought patterns. The premise is that psychedelic experiences can provide therapeutic relief to patients by breaking them out of their rigid, maladaptive thought patterns.

inside Their double-blind, placebo-controlled study, Mason’s team found that psilocybin increased ratings of spontaneous creative insight and also decreased intentional, task-specific creativity. They also found that novel ideas increased after 7 days of psilocybin exposure. Brain imaging supports behavioral changes in creativity.

Mason hopes their work will lead to a better understanding of whether psychedelics induce a “window of opportunity” for improved therapy.

“If there is a persistent, subacute shift in creative cognition, maybe we can use this time to get people to integrate their acute intuition with a therapist and come up with new, more effective strategies that facilitate adaptive interpretation and coping,” she says. .

Making memories more flexible

Manoj Doss’s interest in psychedelics stems from his interest in human memory, and in particular reconciliation – reactivating memories to make them more fluid in order to help patients with disorders such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Unfortunately, reconsolidation paradigms in humans have not exactly led to clinical success, but one reason may be that complex memories maintained over several years are not easily rendered labeled,” Doss said.

This is where psychedelics can come into play, inducing potential plasticity in the cortex.

But before scientists can examine the role of psychedelics in reconsolidation, they first need to better understand how the drugs affect different aspects of memory. inside A preprint analysisAs Doss will present at the CNS meeting, he and colleagues looked at 10 datasets from studies investigating how psychedelics affect episodic memory.

They found that while psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA impair the encoding of memories that depend on recalling specific details, they can enhance the encoding of memories that depend on familiarity. This is different from hallucinogens like ketamine, which impair both types of memory encoding.

“Surprisingly, non-drug studies have shown that when memory fails and familiarity is high, strange phenomena emerge, reminiscent of someone on psychedelics, such as déjà vu and premonition,” explains Doss.

“Although psychedelics may actually help some people come to real insights, most psychedelic experiences can lead to gaining such feelings of familiarity or insight, and as in non-drug studies that can induce such feelings through cognitive manipulation, these feelings can be potentiated. . falsely attributing to unrelated stimuli or concepts, giving rise to false memories and illusory intuitions.”

The new work suggests that psychedelics may enable the brain to bypass or reduce the need for the hippocampus. The hippocampus is thought to help mediate how the cortex learns with more “permanent” memories arising from regular representations across episodic memories.

Cognitive neuroscientists are bringing new rigor to the field by using behavioral and clinical studies to investigate the cognitive effects of psychedelic drugs. Image is in public domain

“Having a negative feeling about the self or a defining traumatic moment can thus be signaled in the cortex, especially after years of suffering,” says Doss, “and it can be especially difficult to disrupt bad representations when the new information is biased. feelings and recent negative experiences.”

Psychedelics may thus provide an opportunity to “quickly overwrite harmful memories and perhaps also provide a new set of contextual effects that aid new encoding even once sober.”

Doss cautions that much remains to be done not only in understanding the effects of these drugs on memory and cognition, but also at the intersection of psychotherapy and medication. Current studies administer high doses of psychedelic drugs to subjects – 2 to 3 times what someone would take for a “highly intoxicated walk through the woods” – while they lie on a couch with eye shades.

“Although there are therapists in the room who can provide support during difficult moments, there is no formal therapy during acute effects, and participants are encouraged to ‘direct their attention inward,'” he says.

Doss looks to the future by examining how certain types of therapy or stimulation can aid in psychedelic-induced therapy sessions. He also points to developments as drugs become more targeted toward specific desired effects or time courses. Doss and Mason hope that the CNS session will help spur new collaborations and directions for psychedelics and cognition research.

This consciousness and neuropharmacology research news Dr

Author: Lisa MP Munoz
Source: Cognitive Neuroscience Society
Contact: Lisa MP Munoz – Cognitive Neuroscience Society
Image: Image is in public domain

Original Research: The findings will be presented at the 30th annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society



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