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Title: The psychological and human brain effects of music in combination with psychedelic drugs
Author: Kaelen, Mendel
ISNI:       0000 0004 6496 8467
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2017
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This research investigated how psychedelics and music work together in the brain and modulate subjective experience. Chapter 1 highlighted the prominent role of music in psychedelic therapy in the 1950s and 1960s, and how music continues to be used in modern psychotherapeutic trials with psychedelics. Although ‘psychedelic therapy’ shows promising findings for mental health care, little is known empirically about the therapeutic functions of music. The primary objective of this thesis was to address this knowledge gap, via studying the effects of psychedelics and music on human brain function in healthy volunteers, and via studying the subjective experience of music, both in healthy volunteers and in patients undergoing psychedelic therapy. Study 1 (Chapter 3) demonstrated intensified music-evoked emotions under the classic psychedelic LSD, including emotions of ‘wonder’ and ‘transcendence’. In subsequent work (study 2, Chapter 4), increased activation in the inferior frontal gyrus and the precuneus to the timbre features in the music, was associated with increased music-evoked emotions of wonder. Study 3 (Chapter 5) demonstrated that LSD and music interact to enhance information flow from the parahippocampus to the visual cortex, and that this effect correlated with increased complex mental imagery and autobiographical memories. Study 4 (Chapter 6), showed that music has a substantial influence on the therapeutic experience with psilocybin in patients with depression, and the quality of the music-experience predicted peak experiences and insightfulness during sessions, and reductions in depression after sessions. These findings support the hypothesis that the music-experience is intensified under psychedelics, and the widely-held view that this effect may be therapeutically significant. Possible brain mechanisms and therapeutic mechanisms are discussed in Chapter 7, but further research is warranted to better understand these mechanisms, and to learn how music can be best used in psychedelic therapy.
Supervisor: Carhart-Harris, Robin ; Nutt, David Sponsor: Beckley Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral