The Influence of Psychedelic Drugs on the 'Sense of Self'


  • Philipp Matteo Härter Maastricht University


Potent psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin are implicated in a multitude of cognitive and perceptual alterations. Through the mediation of serotonergic 5-HT2 receptors, distortion of the self is a common effect of these drugs. The self is usually referred to as an entity comprising physical and psychological attributes that are coherent within our self-concept. This so-called binding process can be affected through psychedelic experiences and can oftentimes lead to the phenomenon of ego-dissolution. Given this, ego-dissolution leads to the elimination of a binded self-model which eventually results in the perception of distorted self-boundaries. There have been improvements conceptualizing and assessing ego-dissolution. The Ego-Dissolution Inventory is the first questionnaire dealing with the assessment of this phenomenon. In addition, a variety of neural studies associate this common psychedelic induced phenomenon with different brain regions. The Default Mode Network and the Salience Network, two large-scale networks associated with distinct components of the self, show altered activity and disintegration, leading to a more global connectivity within the brain. Additionally, decoupling of the Medial Temporal Lobe (MTL) and reduced interhemispheric communication show the same correlations. These findings are first attempts to conceptualize the self and the concept of ego-dissolution in terms of large-scale networks within the brain.