Understanding Central Nervous System Effects of Deliriant Hallucinogenic Drugs through Experimental Animal Models

ACS Chem Neurosci. 2019 Jan 16;10(1):143-154. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00433. Epub 2018 Oct 16.


Hallucinogenic drugs potently alter human behavior and have a millennia-long history of use for medicinal and religious purposes. Interest is rapidly growing in their potential as CNS modulators and therapeutic agents for brain conditions. Antimuscarinic cholinergic drugs, such as atropine and scopolamine, induce characteristic hyperactivity and dream-like hallucinations and form a separate group of hallucinogens known as "deliriants". Although atropine and scopolamine are relatively well-studied drugs in cholinergic physiology, deliriants represent the least-studied class of hallucinogens in terms of their behavioral and neurological phenotypes. As such, novel approaches and new model organisms are needed to investigate the CNS effects of these compounds. Here, we comprehensively evaluate the preclinical effects of deliriant hallucinogens in various animal models, their mechanisms of action, and potential interplay with other signaling pathways. We also parallel experimental and clinical findings on deliriant agents and outline future directions of translational research in this field.

Keywords: Hallucinogens; antimuscarinic agents; deliriants; rodents; zebrafish.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Agents / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Agents / toxicity
  • Delirium / chemically induced
  • Delirium / metabolism
  • Delirium / psychology
  • Hallucinogens / pharmacology*
  • Hallucinogens / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal*
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / toxicity


  • Central Nervous System Agents
  • Hallucinogens
  • Muscarinic Antagonists