Psychedelic frees up depressed brain, study shows

Philippa Roxby reports for the BBC:

Psilocybin, a drug found in magic mushrooms, appears to free up the brains of people with severe depression in a way that other antidepressants do not, a study has found.

The results, based on brain scans of 60 people, mean the drug could treat depression in a unique way, the researchers say.

Psychedelics are being studied to treat a range of mental health disorders.

Patients with depression are warned not to take psilocybin on their own.

A synthetic form of the drug is tested on people in trials under strict medical conditions, with psychological support from experts provided before, during and after it is taken.

Prof David Nutt, study author and head of the Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research, said the latest findings on psilocybin were ‘exciting’ and ‘important’.

With depression, the brain can get stuck in a rut and locked into a particular negative way of thinking, he said.

But when given psilocybin, people’s brains opened up and became ‘more flexible and fluid’ up to three weeks later.

This could be seen in increased connections between regions of the brain when patients were scanned. These patients were more likely to experience an improvement in mood months later.

Similar changes were not seen in the brains of people treated with a standard antidepressant.

‘This supports our initial predictions, and confirms psilocybin could be a real alternative approach to depression treatments,’ Prof Nutt said …”

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