Magic Mushrooms Could Reboot Brains in Depressed People

It is amazing sometimes just what goodies that natural can provide to humans. It has been revealed that magic mushrooms could basically “reset” the normal activity of major brain circuits that are known to play a major role in depression. This is what a recent study which seeks to discover the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics has suggested.

Psychedelics Show Promise in Treating Depression

In the past, psychedelics had already shown hopeful results for treating depression and addictions through several clinical trials during the past decade. Researchers from the Imperial College in London used psilocybin – which is the psychoactive compound which naturally in these magic mushrooms – to treat some patients who were suffering from depression. Then they monitored their brain functions, both before and after the treatment.

After examining images of brains of these patients, it was revealed that changes occurred in brain activity which was associated with lasting reductions in the symptoms of depression. In addition, these patients also reported benefits that lasted as long as five weeks after the initial treatment.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, who leads psychedelic research at Imperial and ran this study, said: “We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments.

“Several of our patients described feeling ‘reset’ after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt ‘rebooted’.

“Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy.”

How The Study was Conducted

During this study, there were a total of 20 patients selected who were suffering from treatment resistant depression. Each of them was provided with two doses of psilocybin, one was 10 mg and the other was 25 mg. The second dose came a week following the first dose. Out of all of these patients, 19 of them went through initial brain imaging, followed by a second one right after the higher dosage treatment. The researchers used there two brain imaging methods to calculate differences in blood flow and also the “crosstalk” between brain regions, and also had the patients report their depression symptoms by completing clinical surveys and questionnaires.

It was observed that the patient experience a decrease in their depression right after the psilocybin treatments. They also reported improvements in their moods as well as stress relief.

MRI images indicated that a reduction of blood flow in regions of the brain, including the amygdala, which is a small region of the brain that is known to process emotional responses, fear, and stress.

The researchers feel that these findings are opening a new window into what takes place in the brains of folks after they ‘come down’ from the effects of a psychedelic.

Last year, two studies from the United States indicated that one dose of psilocybin might totally lift the anxiety and depression felts by those people who have advanced cancer. And it could last for as long as six months or more. 

These researchers are planning to test out psilocybin against a popular antidepressant in clinical trials which will start in the early part of next year.