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Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy – Neural Changes and the Relationship Between the Acute Peak Experience and Clinical Outcomes
Leor Roseman, M.Sc.
Friday, April 21, 2017 • 3:30 PM - 4:00 PM • East Hall
Continuing Education


fMRI was measured before and after psilocybin-assisted therapy for treatment resistant depression (n=20) and changes in the amygdala were recorded in response to emotional stimuli. Amygdala reactivity to emotional faces (positive and negative) increased 1-day after psilocybin-assisted therapy. This is opposite to amygdala changes induced by chronic administration of anti-depressants (reduced reactivity to negative faces). This discrepancy may be related to fundamental differences in these two approaches: with anti-depressants working to mitigate negative emotions and psychedelic-assisted therapy working to confront and work through them. Patients in this study showed a rapid alleviation of symptoms, suggesting that attenuated amygdala responsiveness may not be necessary for therapeutic efficacy. Psychedelic therapy may provide a treatment avenue that preserves, and potentially remediates emotional responsiveness in depression.

Furthermore, our study revealed that strong peak-experience and low anxiety during the psilocybin session, predicted a positive clinical outcome, while the strength of the visual imagery did not. This result strengthen the theoretical framework that peak/mystical/transcendental experience mediates positive changes. Moreover, this result emphasis the importance of the set and setting, and the importance of the preparation. This result will be discussed in relation to Maslow’s peak experience theory and possible neural mechanism that relate to the acute experience and the long term changes.

Leor Roseman, M.Sc., studied Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University. Since June 2013, he is a Ph.D. student in neuroscience in the Beckley-Imperial Research Program under the supervision of Prof. David Nutt and Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris. Leor specializes in fMRI analysis techniques and his main research focus is neural correlates of psychedelic visual imagery and psilocybin-assisted therapy for treatment resistant depression.

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