This article was originally published on Psychedelic Spotlight and appears here with permission.
A new study published in Neuroscience & Behavioral Review reveals that psychedelics activate parts of the Default Mode Network, contrary to previous research suggesting that they deactivate the DMN.
The Default Mode Network has played a major role in attempting to reveal how psychedelics may work in our brains. The DMN is essentially a group of interconnected brain regions that are associated with introspection. The brain regions are related to self-reflection and self-criticism, and heightened activity of the DMN is linked to mind-wandering, time travel, and our ability to empathize with others (i.e. theory of mind). Studies have found that DMN can be particularly overactive in individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, and OCD. On the other hand, the Theory of the Mind (TOM) Network is associated with perspective-taking, our capacity to identify or understand what others think in a specific situation.
Until now, there was no research investigating how these two networks overlap and work together. Moreover, there was no research on how these regions interact under the influence of psychedelics. To unravel the mystery surrounding these networks and how psychedelics affect their neural relationship, a group of scientists decided to perform a quantitative meta-analysis of 88 studies with a total of 2122 participants.
The study, published in Neuroscience & Behavioral Review revealed that the cingulate cortex, more specifically the BA23 and BA31 regions, plays an important role in how these networks overlap and that psychedelics affect how these areas interact with each other. According to the researchers, these substances’ effects on the Theory of Mind and social cognition could unravel some of the mysteries behind their therapeutic potential and how these networks relate to our sense of self.
The study's main highlights are:
- The Default Mode Network and the Theory of Mind are both related to how we perceive and understand the “self” and others.
Psychedelics change our self-perception and modulate social thinking.
This is the first study investigating how social cognition and psychedelics overlap.
- Psychedelics and the DMN both affect the same brain regions involved in social cognition, more specifically the cingulate cortex, middle temporal gyrus, and frontal gyrus, which are related to social thinking and our understanding of others.
Social Cognition, ToM, And DMN
While performing their research analysis, the researchers noticed that a specific set of brain …