131 | The Psychedelic Gaze: Unveiling Eye Movements During Free Exploration of Artworks Under Psilocybin

Cognition, Behavior, and Memory

Author: Stephanie Andrea Müller | Email: stephanieamuller@gmail.com

Stephanie Andrea Müller 1°2°, Federico Cavanna 1°2°3°, Laura Alethia de la Fuente 1°2°, Nicolas Bruno 1°2°5°, Tomas D’ Amelio 1°2°5°, Carla Pallavicini 1°2°3°, Federico Zamberlan 1°6° , Enzo Tagliazucchi 1°2°4°

1° Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Departamento de Física, Ciudad Universitaria, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2° CONICET, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Instituto de Física Interdisciplinaria y Aplicada (INFINA), Ciudad Universitaria, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Fundación para la Lucha contra las Enfermedades Neurológicas de la Infancia (FLENI), CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Latin American Brain Health Institute (BrainLat), Universidad Adolfo Ibañez, Santiago de Chile, Chile
Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Psicología, Instituto de Investigaciones en Psicología, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Department of Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence, Tilburg University, Tilburg, the Netherlands

Classical psychedelics are renowned for their capacity to induce profound shifts in consciousness, affecting perception, emotional states, cognition, and self-awareness. This double-blind placebo-controlled study explores psilocybin’s effect on visual perception and ocular dynamics. Framed within the context of the entropic brain theory, we hypothesized that visual spatial exploration would manifest as less concentrated and more uniform, yielding an increase in the entropy of the fixation probability distribution. A cognitively undemanding task that presented participants with pleasurable stimuli was selected, fostering a naturalistic milieu conducive to sustained attention. Using an eye tracker, gaze fixations were recorded as participants freely explored artworks on a screen under the effects of psilocybin. Participants also provided self-assessments of emotional and aesthetic aspects for each artwork, while a post-task questionnaire covered various aspects of the aesthetic experience (AEQ). Results reveal higher emotional and flow scores of the AEQ under psilocybin. Eye tracker data revealed that psilocybin induces a shorter and more focused visual exploration, and thus a less entropic fixation distribution.These outcomes challenge the foundations of the entropic brain hypothesis, instead suggesting an inverse narrative: participants attribute exaggerated interest values to specific areas or scenes within the visual stimuli.