Magic mushrooms may ‘reset’ the brains of depressed patients

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Patients taking psilocybin to treat depression show reduced symptoms weeks after treatment following a ‘reset’ of their brain activity.

 

 

The findings come from a study in which researchers from Imperial College London used psilocybin – the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms – to treat a small number of patients with depression in whom conventional treatment had failed.

In a paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers describe patient-reported benefits lasting up to five weeks after treatment, and believe the psychedelic compound may effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression.

 

Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms’ by Carhart-Harris, R, et al. is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Main article image: Carhart-Harris, R, et al. Scientific Reports.
Image one: Magic mushrooms (Shutterstock)
Image two: Robin Carhart-Harris (Imperial College London / Thomas Angus)

Source: Magic mushrooms may ‘reset’ the brains of depressed patients

Decoding the Tripping Brain

© SEAN MCCABE

Lying in a room at Imperial College London, surrounded by low lighting and music, Kirk experienced a vivid recollection of visiting his sick mother before she passed away. “I used to go and see my mum in the hospital quite a lot,” recalls Kirk, a middle-aged computer technician who lives in London (he requested we use only his first name). “And a lot of the time she’d be asleep . . . [but] she’d always sense I was there, and after about five minutes she’d wake up, and we’d interact. I kind of went through that again—but it was a kind of letting go.”

Kirk choked up slightly while retelling his experience. “It’s still a little bit emotional,” he says. “The thing I realized [was that] I didn’t want to let go. I wanted to hold on to the grief, because that was the only connection I had with my mum.”

While this may sound like an ordinary therapy session, it was not what you would typically expect. Kirk was experiencing the effects of a 25-mg dose of psilocybin—the active ingredient in psychedelic “magic” mushrooms—which he had ingested as part of a 2015 clinical trial investigating the drug’s therapeutic potential.

Source: Decoding the Tripping Brain

Psychedelics pioneer keeps his inner hippy in check

Psychedelics pioneer keeps his inner hippy in check

 

After giving people LSD and psilocybin, Robin Carhart-Harris is convinced of psychedelic therapy’s potential – but he daren’t get too excited about it

Robin Carhart-Harris
“I have conviction in psychedelics as tools to fundamentally understand the mind and the brain”

Liz Hingley

ONE of the last times I saw Robin Carhart-Harris, I was absolutely off my head on MDMA. On a Monday morning. He knew, because he was the one who gave it to me. He scanned my brain, put me through some psychological tests, and talked to me for what felt like hours about how I was feeling. I remember him being calming and patient. Then again, I was on drugs.

Today I’m completely straight, but he is still calming and patient. It’s a character trait that must come in

Source: Psychedelics pioneer keeps his inner hippy in check | New Scientist

Psychedelic medicine: the potential, the people, the politics

A multicoloured pill capsule
Trippy treatment

James Worrell/Getty

It was quite a comedown in the 1970s when research into psychedelic medicine was virtually shut down in the West. Many countries were beginning to classify psychedelics as “schedule 1”, making them illegal, on the grounds that they were drugs of “abuse” with no agreed-upon medical use.

The stigma, and many obstacles, remain. For many people – crucially those who hold the purse strings – research into psychedelic drugs has a whiff of disreputability about it. As our exclusive interview with Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London reveals, anyone daring to lead this science has to perform a balancing act, with their reputations always on the line.

Nevertheless, the field is showing the green shoots of a renaissance. Here’s a round up of New Scientist’s coverage on the potential, the people and the politics of psychedelic medicine….

The people

Many creators of psychedelic drugs famously tested their products on themselves first. Alexander Shulgin, considered the world’s foremost “psychonaut”, is among those featured in our gallery of self-experimenters.

Over the years, New Scientist has interviewed many key players in psychedelics research, including: Robin Carhart-Harris; David Nutt of Imperial College London, also a former advisor to the UK government on the misuse of drugs; Amanda Feilding, a drugs policy reformer who founded the Beckley Foundation, which promotes and funds clinical research into the therapeutic possibilities of psychedelics; Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, California; and Torsten Passie of Hannover Medical School. From the other side of the fence, we’ve spoken to medicine maker David Nichols, whose work was subverted by manufacturers of recreational drugs; and a maker of legal highs, Dr Z, who argued that mind-altering drugs should be legalised for the improvement of society.

….

Watch this psychedelic space for the latest developments.

More on these topics:

Source: Psychedelic medicine: the potential, the people, the politics | New Scientist

Psychedelic expert: Shrooms will be approved for depression in 10 years


Ask a healthy person who’s tripped on psychedelics what it felt
like, and they’ll probably tell you they saw sounds or heard colors: The crash-bang of a dropped box took on an aggressive,dark shape. A bright green light seemed to emit a piercing, high-pitched screech.

In actuality, this “cross-wiring” — synaesthesia, as it’s known scientifically — may be one example of the drug “freeing” the brain from its typical connection patterns. And this fundamental change in how the brain sends and receives information also might be the reason the drugs are so promising
as a treatment for people with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, or addiction.

“I’m absolutely sure that, within ten years, psilocybin will be an accepted treatment for depression,” David Nutt, the director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit in the division of brain sciences at Imperial College London told me last month.

To understand why he might believe this so strongly, it helps to take a look first at how a healthy brain works — and then at how a psychedelic trip appears to modify the way a depressed brain does.

Normally, information is exchanged in the brain across various circuits, or what Paul Expert, who coauthored one of the first studies to map the
activity in the human brain on psilocybin, described to me as “informational highways.” On some highways, there’s a steady stream of traffic. On others, however, there are rarely more than a few cars on the road. Psychedelics appear to  drive traffic to these underused highways, opening up dozens
of different routes and freeing up some space along the more heavily used ones.

Robin  Carhart-Harris, who leads the psychedelic research arm of the Center for Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London,
captured these changes in one of the first neuroimaging studies of the brain on a psychedelic trip. He presented his findings last year in New York at a conference on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. With psilocybin, “there was a definite sense of lubrication, of freedom, of the cogs being loosened and firing in all sorts of unexpected directions,” Carhart-Harris said.

Here’s a visualization that Expert created to show the brain connections in a person on psilocybin (shrooms) — the chart on the right — compared to the connections in the brain of someone not on the drug (left):


shrooms brain networks
Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Source: Psychedelics expert: Shrooms will be approved for depression in 10 years – Business Insider

David Nutt – The Psychedelic Crusader

 

David Nutt
The Psychedelic Crusader

In a society where almost all drugs have negative associations, it’s hard to have an open and rational discussion about their potential miraculous effects.

So you used to work as a government adviser. What did that life teach you about how the government approaches drugs, as opposed to what you’re doing now? There must be a huge gap.

Yes, there is an enormous gap. That was the great dissolution and that’s why I got sacked. I spent nine years chairing a committee that did the most systematic analysis of drug harms that has ever been done. It developed new methodologies, published papers, and that was enormously fruitful. I believe that’s what governments should do if they want to make good laws. But it gradually became clear to me during that decade that I was working there that they weren’t interested in the facts. They were very happy with the facts that justified their preconceptions, but the facts that conflicted with their preconceptions they tried to dismiss, or hide, or ignore. In the end it became too oppressive. I suddenly discovered one day, during an interview with one of the BBC home affairs correspondents that I was actually speaking like them. I suddenly thought – who is saying these things? This is not me.  I had to stop the interview and say, no we can’t go on. Then I started telling the truth and within six months I was sacked.

You are very enthusiastic about green-lighting trials in this area and understandably so. We’re talking about people suffering from anxiety and depression. The Default Mode Network is generally overactive in people with those disorders and Psilocybin has been shown to turn off the DMN and allow the brain to behave in ways never seen before. But we still know very little for certain. Isn’t that terrifying?

The point is we don’t know about it because no one has done it before. It’s quite fascinating. Getting some of this stuff published has been quite difficult. A lot of scientists would prefer if this whole thing went away. It raises challenges to philosophies and theories of science. It is like Einstein. We had a nice theory of physics and then suddenly relativity comes along and we have a different theory. Similarly we had a nice theory of consciousness but then our work comes along and says actually there’s another kind of psychedelic consciousness and that’s associated with very different brain activity. All the scientists working in the area of consciousness are saying, “Hey, get out of here. You’re a fucking psychiatrist.” But the truth is we’ve challenged things and shaken things up.

 

“I’m sure that within ten years psilocybin will be an accepted alternative treatment for depression.”

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Source: David Nutt – The Psychedelic Crusader