Magic mushrooms can 'reboot' brain to treat depression

Depression treatment

All the patients exhibited lesser depressive symptoms and interestingly, researchers noticed that a number of participants used computer analogies to describe how they felt, using words such as "reset", "reboot", and "defrag".

Commenting on the findings of the study, the head of psychedelic research at Imperial College, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris said that the depressed brain which was being "clammed up" was "reset" after the psychedelic experience.

They researchers tested the drug on 20 patients with treatment-resistant depression.

For many people who are seriously depressed, they don't so much want to "get happy" as they just want their brains to return to a normal, neutral state.

The drug may be giving the patients the "kick start" they need to break out of their depressive states, he said.

A new trial from the team set to start early next year will test psilocybin against a leading antidepressant in a group of patients. "Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy".

The researchers gave the mushrooms to 19 people who had not been helped by traditional treatments for depression.

The participants were each given two doses of psilocybin at 10 mg and 25 mg respectively, with the second dose being given a week after the first.

They found that patients taking psilocybin to treat depression showed reduced symptoms weeks after treatment.

The scientists then used two brain imaging methods to measure changes in blood flow and in the crosstalk between brain regions.

Following the treatment, patients reported a decrease in depressive symptoms, corresponding with improvements in mood and stress relief.

They measured changes in the blood flow to the brain, cerebral blood-flow (CBF) for the day before, and one-day post-treatment. Another brain network, which has previously been linked to depression, showed increased stability.

Researchers warn that despite encouraging results people with depression should not self-medicate with psychoactive drugs.

They add that future studies will include more robust designs and now plan to test psilocybin against a leading antidepressant in a trial set to start early next year.

The research was supported by the Medical Research Council, the Alex Mosley Charitable Trust and the Safra Foundation.

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