Predicting Responses to Psychedelics

Dr Dean Wright

You may have read about, or even participated in the Psychedelic Experience Survey, run by the Psychedelic Research Group at the Imperial College, London.

This survey was designed to measure the effects of people’s personal use of psychedelics. To do this, participants complete a variety of online questionnaires at various time points, from two weeks before the trip, up to one year afterwards. 

The initial results of this study have now been published, in the journal, Frontiers in PharmacologyIt looks at a variety of variables relating to the ‘set‘ of the person, including the intention for use, personality variables and measures of well being. This study will help us to better understand the factors that enable the most beneficial use of these substances as they become more widely available.

Psychedelics and Creativity

Dr Dean Wright

Creativity is a difficult construct to define within psychological terms. We know it when we see it, but how do we define it?

Within psychology, creativity is commonly defined as the ability to generate ideas, solutions, or products that are both novel and appropriate. Being able to come up with alternative solutions to a problem is one aspect of creativity which is called (flexible) divergent thinking.

It is different from (rigid) convergent thinking which is about finding the best solution to a problem.

The Dutch Psychedelic Society have recently conducted a study at one of their events. During this event, participants took a microdose of psilocybin through the consumption of truffles. Participants then underwent a task to measure creativity.

Firstly, how awesome that the Dutch Psychedelic Society was able to complete and publish such research! Secondly, it was found that both convergent and divergent thinking was improved after a microdose.

A second article published by Kuypers, has proposed a neuroscientific explanation for how psychedelics can increase creativity. It describes how this may be beneficial for its therapeutic use.

Changing the ‘Depressed Filter’ using Psilocybin

Dr Dean Wright

Within the mental landscape of a person with depression, some commonalities arise. These include persistent negative biases of how that person looks at themselves, and their future prospects. A sense of worthlessness and hopelessness generally arises, leading people to become apathetic and avoid pursuing activities.

Within the depressed person, very often these perceptions are unrealistic and not based in reality, but based on a bias towards the negative aspects which confirm their assumptions. In contrast, ‘healthy’ people generally display a more positive bias in their perception, and in fact often display a “rose-coloured glasses” effect, conflating these positive aspects of themselves and their lives. This is thought to be an evolutionarily conserved mechanism which motivates us to interact more functionally with the world.

A recent study has shown that psychedelics change this mental landscape in a person with depression. Specifically, psilocybin both alleviated depression and reduced the level of pessimism a person displayed. Importantly, patients became significantly more accurate at predicting the occurrence of future life events after taking psilocybin.

Read the full text here.