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

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 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