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How Psychedelic-Assisted Treatment Works in the Bayesian Brain


Villiger, Daniel (2022). How Psychedelic-Assisted Treatment Works in the Bayesian Brain. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13:812180.

Abstract

Psychedelics are experiencing a renaissance in clinical research. In recent years, an increasing number of studies on psychedelic-assisted treatment have been conducted. So far, the results are promising, suggesting that this new (or rather, rediscovered) form of therapy has great potential. One particular reason for that appears to be the synergistic combination of the pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions in psychedelic-assisted treatment. But how exactly do these two interventions complement each other? This paper provides the first account of the interaction between pharmacological and psychological effects in psychedelic-assisted treatment. Building on the relaxed beliefs under psychedelics (REBUS) hypothesis of Carhart-Harris and Friston and the contextual model of Wampold, it argues that psychedelics amplify the common factors and thereby the remedial effects of psychotherapy. More precisely, psychedelics are assumed to attenuate the precision of high-level predictions, making them more revisable by bottom-up input. Psychotherapy constitutes an important source of such input. At best, it signalizes a safe and supportive environment (cf. setting) and induces remedial expectations (cf. set). During treatment, these signals should become incorporated when high-level predictions are revised: a process that is hypothesized to occur as a matter of course in psychotherapy but to get reinforced and accelerated under psychedelics. Ultimately, these revisions should lead to a relief of symptoms.

Abstract

Psychedelics are experiencing a renaissance in clinical research. In recent years, an increasing number of studies on psychedelic-assisted treatment have been conducted. So far, the results are promising, suggesting that this new (or rather, rediscovered) form of therapy has great potential. One particular reason for that appears to be the synergistic combination of the pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions in psychedelic-assisted treatment. But how exactly do these two interventions complement each other? This paper provides the first account of the interaction between pharmacological and psychological effects in psychedelic-assisted treatment. Building on the relaxed beliefs under psychedelics (REBUS) hypothesis of Carhart-Harris and Friston and the contextual model of Wampold, it argues that psychedelics amplify the common factors and thereby the remedial effects of psychotherapy. More precisely, psychedelics are assumed to attenuate the precision of high-level predictions, making them more revisable by bottom-up input. Psychotherapy constitutes an important source of such input. At best, it signalizes a safe and supportive environment (cf. setting) and induces remedial expectations (cf. set). During treatment, these signals should become incorporated when high-level predictions are revised: a process that is hypothesized to occur as a matter of course in psychotherapy but to get reinforced and accelerated under psychedelics. Ultimately, these revisions should lead to a relief of symptoms.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion > Center for Ethics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Psychiatry and Mental health
Language:English
Date:8 March 2022
Deposited On:25 Aug 2022 11:40
Last Modified:29 Jan 2024 02:43
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1664-0640
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.812180
Project Information:
  • : FunderSchweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)