Journal Club #4 – George Fejer: “The doors of prediction: psychedelics and the level-of-detail modulation.”

The fourth APRA Journal Club will be lead by George Fejer (Cognitive Neuroscience Master’s) on February 16th, 6PM. If you are not a member, get in touch for location info and reserving a spot. An abstract of the talk can be found below.


The notion of the brain as a prediction machine is becoming an increasingly popular theory as it may very well unify several paradigms across different disciplines, from Philosophy to Neuroscience. Predictive processing postulates that our brain functions in a manner that explains away bottom-up sensory information with top-down expectations based on prior knowledge. But how detailed should these expectations be? This may depend on whether we indulge in a highly concentrated or a loose creative mental state. This process is presumably influenced by the neurotransmitter serotonin, as insights from research on psychedelics have implicated these (partial) serotonergic agonists in the modulation of the level-of-detail (granularity) in predictive processing. Previous models postulated that dopamine modulates the precision-weighting of prediction errors (K. J. Friston et al., 2012), whereas psychedelics decompose expectations into overly detailed subcategories (Hashkes, van Rooij, & Kwisthout, 2017).

Neural correlates of the psychedelic state show widespread increases in the repertoire of communication between several different brain areas, whereas normal waking consciousness is marked by more discrete internal representations. Previous work postulated that psychedelics induce detailed perception by de-synchronizing neuronal ensembles that encode top-down expectations. This presentation will explain the key concepts of predictive processing in a manner that relates them to insights from psychedelic literature. Moreover I will explore how to model a neuronally plausible implementation of level-of-detail modulation in and how the level-of-detail could be operationalized for further neuropsychological investigations.

Keywords: psychedelics, predictive coding, level-of-detail, serotonin, creativity

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