“Magic Mushrooms” May Improve Brain Connections in Depressed People
A new study from researchers at Imperial College London and UC San Francisco has found that psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, can “open up” the brains of people with depression, helping them break out of restrictive, negative patterns of thinking.
The results come from two combined studies by the research team, showing that psilocybin helps foster greater connections between brain regions that are more segregated in depressed people.
The improved connections helped depressed study participants free themselves of rigid brain activity, leading to reported improvements in depression symptoms.
The researchers observed the improved brain connections not just during treatment, but up to three weeks after, suggesting psilocybin has a “carry over” effect associated with self-reported improvements in depression.
The team found initial changes in brain activity one day after treatment were a good predictor of a person still showing improvement at six months.
Why it matters:
The researchers say the findings are significant as they show psilocybin works differently than antidepressants, suggesting the compound can be an alternative to depression treatments.
They still caution against depressed people self-medicating with psilocybin, however, as these trials took place under controlled, clinical conditions, using a regulated dose, and involved extensive psychological support from mental health professionals throughout.