The bodily self from psychosis to psychedelics

Amir Harduf, Gabriella Panishev, Eiran V. Harel, Yonatan Stern, Roy Salomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The sense of self is a foundational element of neurotypical human consciousness. We normally experience the world as embodied agents, with the unified sensation of our selfhood being nested in our body. Critically, the sense of self can be altered in psychiatric conditions such as psychosis and altered states of consciousness induced by psychedelic compounds. The similarity of phenomenological effects across psychosis and psychedelic experiences has given rise to the “psychotomimetic” theory suggesting that psychedelics simulate psychosis-like states. Moreover, psychedelic-induced changes in the sense of self have been related to reported improvements in mental health. Here we investigated the bodily self in psychedelic, psychiatric, and control populations. Using the Moving Rubber Hand Illusion, we tested (N = 75) patients with psychosis, participants with a history of substantial psychedelic experiences, and control participants to see how psychedelic and psychiatric experience impacts the bodily self. Results revealed that psychosis patients had reduced Body Ownership and Sense of Agency during volitional action. The psychedelic group reported subjective long-lasting changes to the sense of self, but no differences between control and psychedelic participants were found. Our results suggest that while psychedelics induce both acute and enduring subjective changes in the sense of self, these are not manifested at the level of the bodily self. Furthermore, our data show that bodily self-processing, related to volitional action, is disrupted in psychosis patients. We discuss these findings in relation to anomalous self-processing across psychedelic and psychotic experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21209
JournalScientific Reports
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023, The Author(s).

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