Psilocybin impairs high-level but not low-level motion perception

Neuroreport. 2004 Aug 26;15(12):1947-51. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200408260-00023.


The hallucinogenic serotonin(1A&2A) agonist psilocybin is known for its ability to induce illusions of motion in otherwise stationary objects or textured surfaces. This study investigated the effect of psilocybin on local and global motion processing in nine human volunteers. Using a forced choice direction of motion discrimination task we show that psilocybin selectively impairs coherence sensitivity for random dot patterns, likely mediated by high-level global motion detectors, but not contrast sensitivity for drifting gratings, believed to be mediated by low-level detectors. These results are in line with those observed within schizophrenic populations and are discussed in respect to the proposition that psilocybin may provide a model to investigate clinical psychosis and the pharmacological underpinnings of visual perception in normal populations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects
  • Contrast Sensitivity / drug effects
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / drug effects*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / drug effects
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psilocybin / toxicity*
  • Psychophysics


  • Hallucinogens
  • Psilocybin