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

Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms

This study was approved by the National Research Ethics Service (NRES) committee London – West London and was conducted in accordance with the revised declaration of Helsinki (2000), the International Committee on Harmonisation Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines and National Health Service (NHS) Research Governance Framework. Imperial College London sponsored the research which was conducted under a Home Office license for research with schedule 1 drugs. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the study. All patients gave written informed consent, consistent with GCP.

Imaging vs clinical outcomes

To explore relationships between significant imaging outcomes and the main clinical outcomes, we chose to focus on changes in depressive symptoms from: 1) pre-Treatment to scan 2 (i.e. one-day post-treatment), and 2) pre-Treatment to 5 weeks post-Treatment. The primary clinical outcome measure, the 16-item Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms (QIDS-SR16) was chosen for this purpose. Relationships between imaging outcomes and contemporaneous decreases in depressive symptoms were calculated using a standard Pearson’s r, and relationships with the longer-term (i.e. at 5 weeks post-treatment) changes in depressive symptoms were calculated by splitting the sample into responders (>50% reduction in QIDS-SR16 scores) and non-responders at this time-point, and then performing a one-tailed t-test on the relevant imaging outcomes (one-tailed as directionality was unequivocally implied by the direction of the significant imaging outcome). We used a revised version of the QIDS-SR16 for 24-hour measurement for the post-treatment scan in order to get a contemporaneous, state-related index of depressive symptoms at this time-point.

Anatomical Scans

Imaging was performed on a 3 T Siemens Tim Trio using a 12-channel head coil at Imanova, London, UK. Anatomical images were acquired using the ADNI-GO (Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, Grand Opportunity52) recommended MPRAGE parameters (1 mm isotropic voxels, TR = 2300 ms, TE = 2.98 ms, 160 sagittal slices, 256 × 256 in-plane FOV, flip angle = 9 degrees, bandwidth = 240 Hz/pixel, GRAPPA acceleration = 2).

 

Source: Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms | Scientific Reports

Infographic: The Brain on Psychedelics

Infographic: The Brain on Psychedelics

Understanding how hallucinogenic drugs affect different neural networks could shed light on their therapeutic potential.

© CATHERINE DELPHIAKey brain areas involved in the effects of psychedelic drugs are located in the default mode network (DMN), which is more active at rest than when attention is focused on the external environment. Neuroscientists first discovered this network while scanning participants’ brains at rest: rather than a decrease in activity across the brain, they found that activity in some regions was actually higher when people were not engaged in a goal-directed task. Over the years, researchers have linked the DMN to a variety of functions, including autobiographical recollection, mind wandering, and processing self-related information.

Source: Infographic: The Brain on Psychedelics

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.

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Watch this psychedelic space for the latest developments.

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