Magic mushrooms may effectively “reset” the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression, the latest study to highlight the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics suggests.
A neuroscientist explains: the need for ‘empathetic citizens’ – podcast
Psychedelics have shown promising results in the treatment of depression and addictions in a number of clinical trials over the last decade. Imperial College London researchers used psilocybin – the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms – to treat a small number of patients with depression, monitoring their brain function, before and after.
“Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy.”
For the study, published in Scientific Reports on Friday, 20 patients with treatment-resistant depression were given two doses of psilocybin (10 mg and 25 mg), with the second dose a week after the first. Of these, 19 underwent initial brain imaging and then the second scan one day after the high dose treatment. The team used two main brain imaging methods to measure changes in blood flow and the crosstalk between brain regions, with patients reporting their depressive symptoms through completing clinical questionnaires.
The authors believe the findings provide a new window into what happens in the brains of people after they have ‘come down’ from a psychedelic, with an initial disintegration of brain networks during the drug ‘trip’ followed by a re-integration afterward.
Full article at The Guardian