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Activation of Serotonin 2A Receptors Underlies the Psilocybin-Induced Effects on α Oscillations, N170 Visual-Evoked Potentials, and Visual Hallucinations


Kometer, Michael; Schmidt, André; Jäncke, Lutz; Vollenweider, Franz X (2013). Activation of Serotonin 2A Receptors Underlies the Psilocybin-Induced Effects on α Oscillations, N170 Visual-Evoked Potentials, and Visual Hallucinations. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(25):10544-10551.

Abstract

Visual illusions and hallucinations are hallmarks of serotonergic hallucinogen-induced altered states of consciousness. Although the serotonergic hallucinogen psilocybin activates multiple serotonin (5-HT) receptors, recent evidence suggests that activation of 5-HT2A receptors may lead to the formation of visual hallucinations by increasing cortical excitability and altering visual-evoked cortical responses. To address this hypothesis, we assessed the effects of psilocybin (215 μg/kg vs placebo) on both α oscillations that regulate cortical excitability and early visual-evoked P1 and N170 potentials in healthy human subjects. To further disentangle the specific contributions of 5-HT2A receptors, subjects were additionally pretreated with the preferential 5-HT2A receptor antagonist ketanserin (50 mg vs placebo). We found that psilocybin strongly decreased prestimulus parieto-occipital α power values, thus precluding a subsequent stimulus-induced α power decrease. Furthermore, psilocybin strongly decreased N170 potentials associated with the appearance of visual perceptual alterations, including visual hallucinations. All of these effects were blocked by pretreatment with the 5-HT2A antagonist ketanserin, indicating that activation of 5-HT2A receptors by psilocybin profoundly modulates the neurophysiological and phenomenological indices of visual processing. Specifically, activation of 5-HT2A receptors may induce a processing mode in which stimulus-driven cortical excitation is overwhelmed by spontaneous neuronal excitation through the modulation of α oscillations. Furthermore, the observed reduction of N170 visual-evoked potentials may be a key mechanism underlying 5-HT2A receptor-mediated visual hallucinations. This change in N170 potentials may be important not only for psilocybin-induced states but also for understanding acute hallucinatory states seen in psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease.

Abstract

Visual illusions and hallucinations are hallmarks of serotonergic hallucinogen-induced altered states of consciousness. Although the serotonergic hallucinogen psilocybin activates multiple serotonin (5-HT) receptors, recent evidence suggests that activation of 5-HT2A receptors may lead to the formation of visual hallucinations by increasing cortical excitability and altering visual-evoked cortical responses. To address this hypothesis, we assessed the effects of psilocybin (215 μg/kg vs placebo) on both α oscillations that regulate cortical excitability and early visual-evoked P1 and N170 potentials in healthy human subjects. To further disentangle the specific contributions of 5-HT2A receptors, subjects were additionally pretreated with the preferential 5-HT2A receptor antagonist ketanserin (50 mg vs placebo). We found that psilocybin strongly decreased prestimulus parieto-occipital α power values, thus precluding a subsequent stimulus-induced α power decrease. Furthermore, psilocybin strongly decreased N170 potentials associated with the appearance of visual perceptual alterations, including visual hallucinations. All of these effects were blocked by pretreatment with the 5-HT2A antagonist ketanserin, indicating that activation of 5-HT2A receptors by psilocybin profoundly modulates the neurophysiological and phenomenological indices of visual processing. Specifically, activation of 5-HT2A receptors may induce a processing mode in which stimulus-driven cortical excitation is overwhelmed by spontaneous neuronal excitation through the modulation of α oscillations. Furthermore, the observed reduction of N170 visual-evoked potentials may be a key mechanism underlying 5-HT2A receptor-mediated visual hallucinations. This change in N170 potentials may be important not only for psilocybin-induced states but also for understanding acute hallucinatory states seen in psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
610 Medicine & health
Date:2013
Deposited On:12 Jul 2013 14:39
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:52
Publisher:Society for Neuroscience
ISSN:0270-6474
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3007-12.2013
PubMed ID:23785166

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