The emerging novel therapeutic psilocybin produces psychedelic effects via engagement of cerebral serotonergic targets by psilocin (active metabolite). The serotonin 2A receptor critically mediates these effects by altering distributed neural processes that manifest as increased entropy, reduced functional connectivity (FC) within discrete brain networks (i.e., reduced integrity) and increased FC between networks (i.e., reduced segregation). Reduced integrity of the default mode network (DMN) is proposed to play a particularly prominent role in psychedelic phenomenology, including perceived ego-dissolution.
Here, we investigate the effects of a psychoactive peroral dose of psilocybin (0.2–0.3 mg/kg) on plasma psilocin level (PPL), subjective drug intensity (SDI) and their association in fifteen healthy individuals. We further evaluate associations between these measures and resting-state FC, measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging, acquired over the course of five hours after psilocybin administration.
We show that PPL and SDI correlate negatively with measures of network integrity (including DMN) and segregation, both spatially constrained and unconstrained. We also find that the executive control network and dorsal attention network desegregate, increasing connectivity with other networks and throughout the brain as a function of PPL and SDI.
These findings provide direct evidence that psilocin critically shapes the time course and magnitude of changes in the cerebral functional architecture and subjective experience following psilocybin administration. Our findings provide novel insight into the neurobiological mechanisms underlying profound perceptual experiences evoked by this emerging transnosological therapeutic and implicate the expression of network integrity and segregation in the psychedelic experience and consciousness.