A psychoactive compound occurring naturally in “magic mushrooms” may help reduce symptoms of depression as well as “reset” brain activity in affected patients, a study has shown.
The findings demonstrated that Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as psychedelic mushrooms, effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression.
“We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments,” said Robin Carhart-Harris, Head of Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London.
“Several of our patients described feeling “reset” after the treatment. Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary kick-start they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a reset analogy,” Carhart-Harris added.
For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team examined patients with treatment-resistant form of the disorder with two doses of psilocybin (10 mg and 25 mg).
Following the treatment, patients reported a decrease in depressive symptoms, corresponding with improvements in mood and stress relief.
Functional MRI imaging revealed reduced blood flow in areas of the brain, including the amygdala — a small, almond-shaped region of the brain known to be involved in processing emotional responses, stress and fear.
These benefits lasted up to five weeks after treatment, the researchers said.
While the initial findings are encouraging, patients with depression should not attempt to self-medicate, as things may go awry if the extensive psychological component of the treatment is neglected, the researchers warned.