An introduction to psychedelic neuroscience

Prog Brain Res. 2018:242:1-23. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.09.013. Epub 2018 Nov 15.


This chapter is an introduction to the volume "Psychedelic Neuroscience" of Elsevier's Progress in Brain Research addressing the neurobiological mechanisms of psychedelic drugs, the resulting changes in brain activity and integration of traditional viewpoints. As the field is relatively new, there are discrepancies in the literature related to classification, composition and effects of the various psychedelics. Currently, psychedelics are grouped according to their neuro-receptor affinities into classic and atypical psychedelics, each with individual treatment potentials and abilities to elicit potent acute experiences and long-lasting changes in neurobiology through concurrent activation of several neuromodulatory systems. There is disparity in psychedelic brain imaging studies, delineating what is neural activity and hemodynamic needs further investigation for us to understand the brain "state" changes that are apparent. The psychedelic brain "state" is often compared to acute psychosis and we review the psychedelic animal models of psychosis and human brain imaging studies and contrast these to psychosis. The term "psychedelic" means mind-revealing and psychedelics have exceptional anti-amnesic effects and are able to "make conscious" that which was previously unconscious through changes in brain "state," but also there is growing evidence which demonstrates the role of epigenetic mechanisms. This supports traditional therapeutic use of psychedelics to heal ancestral trauma. Details of these mechanisms are provided along with suggestions for further research.

Keywords: Combination psychedelic therapy; Consciousness; Epigenetics; MEG; Microdosing; Neurobiology; Neuromodulators; Psychedelic medicine; Psychosis; fMRI; qEEG.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Consciousness / drug effects*
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Hallucinogens* / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Neurosciences*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy


  • Hallucinogens