The findings of a recent study have revealed that the hallucinogens present in magic mushrooms could possibly reset the brain of people suffering from depression, which is nothing less than a groundbreaking discovery that could raise hopes for a future treatment of the disease.
This study has proved to be remarkable, since it didn’t actually deals with treating depression with everyday medications which usually lasts for just a few weeks, rather it continues long after the hallucinogen has left the body.
This study took into consideration 19 patients who were given a single dose of the psychedelic ingredient psilocybin. Of these, half of the patients noted an amazing change in their symptoms and they ceased to be depressed. Changes in their brain activity was also noted, which lasted about five weeks.
Despite these findings, the team at Imperial College London has confirmed that people should not self medicate. A series of small studies have also found that psilocybin could play a role in curbing depression by acting as a lubricant for the mind which allows the people affected to escape from the cycle of depressive systems.
Despite this, the precise impact of the compound on brain activity was not known. This is when, the team at Imperial conducted fMRI brain scans both before and a day after treatment with psilocybin.
These findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports which showed that the compound affects two key areas of the brain.
The amygdala, which is heavily involved in how we process emotions such as fear and anxiety become less active in the presence of the compound, and the greater this reduction, the better the reduction in symptoms was noticed.
The default mode network- a collaboration of different regions of the brain, becomes more stable after taking the compound.
Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, who is the head of psychedelic research at Imperial, further stated that in depressed individuals, the brain tends to be clammed up, and the psychedelic experience resets it.
He told the BBC News website: “Patients were very ready to use this analogy. Without any priming they would say, ‘I’ve been reset, reborn, rebooted’, and one patient said his brain had been defragged and cleaned up.”
However, it is also important to note that this is a small study and has no control group of healthy people with whom the brain scans can be compared. Larger studies are needed to be conducted before the compound can be accepted as a treatment for depression.
There is, however, no doubt that new treatments and approaches to depression are desperately needed.
Depression: A revolution in treatment?
Prof Mitul Mehta, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, explained: “What is impressive about these preliminary findings is that brain changes occurred in the networks we know are involved in depression, after just a single dose of psilocybin. This provides a clear rationale to now look at the longer-term mechanisms in controlled studies.”