LivingThe 'magic mushrooms', a possible ally against depression

The 'magic mushrooms', a possible ally against depression

Psilocybin is an alkaloid that is metabolized in the body into psilocin, a hallucinogenic compound found naturally in certain types of mushrooms that causes visual and auditory hallucinations , as well as altered consciousness after ingestion.

Now, according to a recent study by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco and Imperial College London, this compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms encourages greater connections between different brain regions in depressed people, freeing them from patterns of rumination and self-focus excessive, which would make him a possible ally against depression.

Psychedelic substances could act therapeutically in the brain to relieve depression and possibly other psychiatric conditions that are marked by fixed patterns of thought, according to the conclusions of this study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

The experiment

The new findings are based on analysis of brain scans of about 60 people receiving treatment for major depression ; a program run by the Center for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London . The researchers analyzed data from two separate trials. In the first of these, all participants were treated with psilocybin and had their brain activity scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and one day after taking the drug. On the other hand , volunteers in the second study were treated with either psilocybin or the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram, and had their brains scanned before treatment and again three weeks later. None of the participants had any idea which one they would receive.

“In both trials, the antidepressant response to psilocybin was rapid, sustained, and correlated with decreases in fMRI brain network modularity, implying that psilocybin’s antidepressant action may depend on an overall increase in psilocybin integration. brain network,” the researchers write.

A more flexible brain

The researchers claimed that psilocybin made the brain more flexible and function differently than regular antidepressants, even weeks after use. Despite these findings, experts caution that depressed patients should not attempt to self-medicate with psilocybin.

“These findings are important because, for the first time, we found that psilocybin works differently from conventional antidepressants, making the brain more flexible and fluid, and less entrenched in negative thought patterns associated with depression.” , explains Robin Carhart-Harris, leader of the study. “This supports our initial predictions and confirms that psilocybin could be a real alternative approach to depression treatments.”

Study limitations

Although the results are exciting and hopeful, the research has certain shortcomings, such as its small sample size and short study period .

Reference: Richard E. Daws, Christopher Timmermann, Bruna Giribaldi, James D. Sexton, Matthew B. Wall, David Erritzoe, Leor Roseman, David Nutt, Robin Carhart-Harris. Increased global integration in the brain after psilocybin therapy for depression . Nature Medicine , April 11, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s41591-022-01744-z

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