These days it seems like every week, a new institution is publishing groundbreaking research reaffirming the incredible potential of magic mushrooms in the treatment of depression.
Our latest bit of news comes from a research team at Yale University, who published their findings in the journal Neuron on July 5, 2021.
The link between psilocybin usage and recovery from depression is one that has been explored for decades, but scientists although the benefits of psilocybin treatment have been empirically substantiated and documented, the exact mechanics through which psilocybin interacts with the depressive brain are still a hotly debated issue in scientific communities.
In an attempt to shed more meaningful light on the issue, the team at Yale led by Alex Kwan, associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, found that administering a single dose of psilocybin to mice prompted an immediate and long-lasting boost in connections between neurons in the brain.
Patients suffering from depression and chronic stress often exhibit a lower level of neuronal connectivity, and it’s now hypothesized that repairing and strengthening these neuronal connections may partially explain the efficacy of psilocybin treatments in depressive patients, on a neurological level.
Alex Kwan elaborates, “We not only saw a 10% increase in the number of neuronal connections, but also they were on average about 10% larger, so the connections were stronger as well.”
Neurons, when observed under a microscope, have a feature called a dendritic spine – a protrusion responsible for receiving synaptic input, effectively allowing the neuron to “fire.” These dendritic spines were analyzed in mice administered a single dose of psilocybin, and researchers noticed that in addition to the amelioration of stress-related behavioral deficit, the following quantitative changes could be observed:
– Psilocybin increases spine density and spine size in frontal cortical pyramidal cells
– Psilocybin-evoked structural remodeling is persistent for at least 1 month
– The dendritic rewiring is accompanied by elevated excitatory neurotransmission
In layman’s terms, not only did the dendritic spines grow considerably, they appeared more communicative, and the effects appeared to be long-lasting.
“It was a real surprise to see such enduring changes from just one dose of psilocybin,” said Kwan.
Could this be the key to uncovering the scientific rationale behind psilocybin’s incredible curative properties? It’s possible! And in any case, it is encouraging to see research from one of the most reputable educational institutions in the world reaffirming what amateur psychonauts have known for so many years: magic mushrooms are so much more than a recreational drug – and we’re only beginning to understand the incredible potential they could have for humanity.
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