One dose of psilocybin promotes new brain connections, a new study find

Jul, 2021 - By WMR

One dose of psilocybin promotes new brain connections, a new study find

Similar signals of psychedelic-induced neuronal plasticity were seen in a study evaluating the effects of a single psilocybin dose in a pig brain.  

More than 200 species of mushrooms create psilocybin, a naturally occurring hallucinogenic prodrug molecule. Members of the genus Psilocybin, such as P. azurescens, and P. semilanceata, are the most potent. A team of Yale University scientists has reported the first direct cellular demonstration of a single psilocybin dose eliciting neuronal plasticity in a human brain in an amazing new study. The researchers illustrate how the psychedelic causes rapid growth of neuronal connections in mice's frontal cortex, and speculate that this process is involved in the drug's antidepressant properties.

Hallucinogenic science has advanced at a rate not seen in half an era over the previous decade. Although both MDMA and psilocybin for PTSD and depression are in late-stage human studies and on the approach of clinical licensure, they still know very little about how these psychedelic chemicals produce their therapeutic effects.

Years of thorough research on depression have provided psychedelic researchers with hints as to where they should focus their efforts. Depression is known to be linked to synaptic shrinkage in the frontal brain. Rapid-acting anti-depressants have also been shown to boost mood by reversing synaptic impairments, effectively increasing the volume of neuronal connections in these crucial brain regions.

According to a new study published in the journal Neuron, the answer is yes. The synaptic architecture of the medial frontal cortex in a variety of mice was studied using chronic two-photon imaging. The imaging looked at the number and density of dendritic spines, which are neural connections. Seven imaging sessions were carried out, starting before a single dose of psilocybin was given and lasting up to a month afterward.

The animals' functional and behavioural alterations were also observed after a single psilocybin treatment, according to the researchers. Stress-related behaviours were reduced in mice with increased excitatory neurotransmission in the frontal brain. This discovery shows that structural brain changes may be involved in some of the therapeutic advantages of psychedelics. Psilocybin increased levels of a critical protein known to facilitate neuroplasticity.

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