Study finds psilocybin repairs brain cell damage associated with depression
Written by Emily Ledger,
A new study conducted by Yale University has found that the psychedelic compound psilocybin – a naturally occurring chemical produced by ‘magic mushrooms’ – can repair brain cells damaged by depression. The compound was seen to prompt an immediate and long-lasting increase in connections between neurons.
According to Yale researchers, the administration of a single dose of psilocybin in mice was seen to cause a 10% increase in the number of neuronal connections. Yale’s associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience and senior author of the paper, Alex Kwan, added that the connections were also “on average about 10% larger, so the connections were stronger as well”.
Kwan, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University, said of the research: “My lab has a longstanding interest in studying antidepressants, which started in 2014 with a small pilot grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.
“We were studying the rapid-acting antidepressant ketamine and found that it has various intriguing effects on changing neuronal connections in the brain. Then about two years ago, we started wondering if the effects generalize to other compounds, so we began working on psilocybin.
“Here we study what psilocybin does in a mouse brain. The data suggest that there is a growth of new neuronal connections in mice after one dose of psilocybin. This happened in the frontal cortex, a brain region important for mood and cognition.”
Past research in the area includes a double-blind placebo study by the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, which demonstrated that the compound was equally as effective in treating depression as conventional antidepressant medication escitalopram when taken in the context of therapy.