Simulated visual hallucinations in virtual reality enhance cognitive flexibility

Clara Rastelli, Antonino Greco, Yoed N. Kenett, Chiara Finocchiaro, Nicola De Pisapia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Historically, psychedelic drugs are known to modulate cognitive flexibility, a central aspect of cognition permitting adaptation to changing environmental demands. Despite proof suggesting phenomenological similarities between artificially-induced and actual psychedelic altered perception, experimental evidence is still lacking about whether the former is also able to modulate cognitive flexibility. To address this, we measure participants’ cognitive flexibility through behavioral tasks after the exposure to virtual reality panoramic videos and their hallucinatory-like counterparts generated by the DeepDream algorithm. Results show that the estimated semantic network has a flexible structure when preceded by altered videos. Crucially, following the simulated psychedelic exposure, individuals also show an attenuated contribution of the automatic process and chaotic dynamics underlying the decision process. This suggests that simulated altered perceptual phenomenology enhances cognitive flexibility, presumably due to a reorganization in the cognitive dynamics that facilitates the exploration of uncommon decision strategies and inhibits automated choices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4027
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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