YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGS

Scientists find that tripping on mushrooms is a promising way to treat depression

Psilocybin—the naturally occurring psychedelic compound in hundreds of kinds mushrooms—has been reported to show promise as a treatment for depression. Now researchers are trying to find out more about how that works.

Scientists looking at how the brain responds to psilocybin gave 19 patients two doses each one week apart in a study approved by the National Research Ethics Service committee in London. The scientists were looking to study brain response before and after ingestion, and during the “after-glow” of tripping that is characterized by mood improvement and stress relief.

They measured changes in the blood flow to the brain, cerebral blood-flow (CBF) for the day before, and one-day post-treatment.

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Whole-brain cerebral blood flow maps for baseline versus one-day post-treatment. (Nature.com)

 

Decreased depressive symptoms were observed in all 19 patients a week later. Five weeks later, 47% were less depressed. The effects correlate with parts of the experience of tripping which include, according to the scientists, “ego-dissolution” and “post-acute changes in the personality domain” or “openness.”

While the sample size was limited, the scientists concluded that psilocybin is promising for treatment-resistant depression, especially when used to ‘reset’ the brain, with blood flow back to state it was in prior to depression.

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