A study found that psilocybin, a psychedelic substance found in magic mushrooms, helps to ‘open up’ the brains of depressed people even weeks after they use it. The Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London conducted this study, which used brain scans from nearly 60 patients being treated for depression. The authors of the study believe they have discovered how psilocybin influences the brain to produce therapeutic effects.
Several psychedelic substances, including psilocybin, are being researched as possible treatments for mental illnesses. A synthetic version of the medication was tested in several studies for its efficacy in treating patients with anxiety and depression. According to the most recent findings, which were compiled from two separate studies, patients who responded to psilocybin-assisted therapy had increased brain connectivity not only during treatment but also for up to three weeks afterwards.
This ‘opening up’ effect was linked to the participants’ self-reported depression reductions. It appears that the psychedelic treats depression differently than a traditional antidepressant called escitalopram, because similar changes in brain connectivity were not observed in people taking that medication. The team claims that the findings, which were replicated in two studies and published today in the journal Nature Medicine, are a step forward for psilocybin therapy.
They claim that because depression can result in rigid and constrained patterns of brain activity, psilocybin may be able to help the brain escape this impasse in a way that traditional treatments cannot. Although more data from ongoing clinical trials was required to prove the medication’s efficacy, the drug development expert stated that preliminary findings were encouraging. According to the scientist, the treatment pathway works completely differently than antidepressants do.