Characterizing Thalamocortical (Dys)connectivity Following D-Amphetamine, LSD, and MDMA Administration

Mihai Avram*, Felix Müller, Helena Rogg, Alexandra Korda, Christina Andreou, Friederike Holze, Patrick Vizeli, Laura Ley, Matthias E. Liechti, Stefan Borgwardt

*Corresponding author for this work
14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Patients with psychotic disorders present alterations in thalamocortical intrinsic functional connectivity as measured by resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Specifically, thalamic intrinsic functional connectivity is increased with sensorimotor cortices (hyperconnectivity) and decreased with prefrontal limbic cortices (hypoconnectivity). Psychedelics such as lysergic acid diethlyamide (LSD) elicit similar thalamocortical hyperconnectivity with sensorimotor areas in healthy volunteers. It is unclear whether LSD also induces thalamocortical hypoconnectivity with prefrontal limbic cortices, because current findings are equivocal. Thalamocortical hyperconnectivity was associated with psychotic symptoms in patients and substance-induced altered states of consciousness in healthy volunteers. Thalamocortical dysconnectivity is likely evoked by altered neurotransmission, e.g., via dopaminergic excess in psychotic disorders and serotonergic agonism in psychedelic-induced states. It is unclear whether thalamocortical dysconnectivity is also elicited by amphetamine-type substances, broadly releasing monoamines (i.e., dopamine, norepinephrine) but producing fewer perceptual effects than psychedelics. Methods: We administrated LSD, d-amphetamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in 28 healthy volunteers and investigated their effects on thalamic intrinsic functional connectivity with 2 brain networks (auditory-sensorimotor and salience networks, corresponding to sensorimotor and prefrontal limbic cortices, respectively), using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design. Results: All active substances elicited auditory-sensorimotor–thalamic hyperconnectivity compared with placebo, despite predominantly distinct pharmacological actions and subjective effects. LSD-induced effects correlated with subjective changes in perception, indicating a link between hyperconnectivity and psychedelic-type perceptual alterations. Unlike d-amphetamine and MDMA, which induced hypoconnectivity with the salience network, LSD elicited hyperconnectivity. D-amphetamine and MDMA evoked similar thalamocortical dysconnectivity patterns. Conclusions: Psychedelics, empathogens, and psychostimulants evoke thalamocortical hyperconnectivity with sensorimotor areas, akin to findings in patients with psychotic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)885-894
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 09.2022

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-09 Biological Psychiatry
  • 206-08 Cognitive and Systemic Human Neuroscience
  • 206-04 Cognitive, Systemic and Behavioural Neurobiology

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