Researchers have discovered that psilocybin restores the brain connections disrupted by depression. Psilocybin is a component of magic mushrooms scientists have been studying as a possible treatment for depression. While doctors commonly used the drug to treat depression, it had been unclear how it works and how long its effects last until recently.
Psilocybin increases and strengthens neuronal connections
From previous studies, researchers have learned that mental health problems like depression and chronic stress reduce brain connections. Psychedelics such as psilocybin can remedy this issue.
A team of researchers from Yale found that after giving mice a sink dose of psilocybin, connections between neurons increased immediately. Neurons transmit impulses to muscles, glands and nerves in the body.
According to Alex Kwan, the associate professor in psychiatry and neuroscience at Yale, the researchers noted an increase of neuronal connections by 10%. On top of that, the neuronal connections also become 10% large, making them even more robust.
Study authors found that substances like psilocybin and anaesthetic ketamine increased the density of bumps on the nerve cells known as dendritic spines. Dendritic spines facilitate information transmission between neurons.
Researchers used mice to come to their conclusion.
Ling-Xiao, the first study author, and Kwan used a laser-scanning microscope to observe dendritic spines in their sample of mice. They gave the mice psilocybin for some days while monitoring changes in their dendritic spines.
Results showed that the size and number of dendritic spines increased steadily from their first dose of psilocybin. The mice subjected to stress even showed changes in their behaviour. These changes remained a month after treatment.
Kwan states that the new neuronal connections might be a result of the psychological effects of psilocybin. The new brain connections could be a result of the brain storing further information from the psychedelic experience
Magic mushrooms have been used in the past by ancient indigenous people in ceremonies and also as a recreational drug to cause a psychedelic experience. People who use mushrooms report having what they consider a mystical experience. Over the years, it has become accepted as an alternative to medication used for mental health.