Psilocybin induces spatially constrained alterations in thalamic functional organization and connectivity
Serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR) agonist psychedelics including psilocybin and LSD ("classic" psychedelics) evoke acute alterations in perception and cognition. Altered thalamocortical connectivity has been proposed to underlie these effects, which is supported by some functional MRI (fMRI) studies. Likely due to sample size limitations, these studies have treated the thalamus as a unitary structure, despite known differential 5-HT2AR expression and functional specificity of different
... ic nuclei. Independent Component Analysis (ICA) has been employed to generate functional subdivisions of the thalamus from resting state fMRI (rsfMRI) data. This report utilizes a novel data-sparing ICA approach in order to examine psilocybin-induced changes in intrathalamic functional organization and thalamocortical connectivity. Methods: Baseline rsfMRI data (n=38) was utilized to generate a template, which was then applied in a novel ICA-based analysis of the acute effects of psilocybin on intra- and extra-thalamic functional organization and connectivity in a smaller sample (n=18). Correlations with subjective reports of drug effect and comparisons with a previously reported analytic approach (treating the thalamus as a single functional unit) were conducted. Results: Several intrathalamic components showed significant psilocybin-induced alterations in intrathalamic spatial organization, largely localized to the mediodorsal and pulvinar nuclei, and correlated with reported subjective effects. These same components demonstrated alterations in thalamocortical connectivity, largely with visual and default mode networks. Analysis in which the thalamus is treated as a singular unitary structure showed an overall numerical increase in thalamocortical connectivity, consistent with previous literature using this approach, but this increase did not reach statistical significance. Conclusions: Utilization of a novel analytic approach demonstrated changes in intra- and extra-thalamic functional organization and connectivity of intrathalamic nuclei and cortical networks known to express the 5-HT2AR. Given that these changes were not observed using whole-thalamus analyses, it seems that psilocybin may cause widespread but modest increases in thalamocortical connectivity that are offset by strong focal decreases in functionally relevant intrathalamic nuclei.