Psilocybin is a psychedelic drug that’s a naturally occurring compound in some mushrooms. It’s been studied as a possible treatment for depression for years now.
However, the exact way it works in the brain and its benefits remain unclear. But, this new study done at Yale is looking to change that.
According to their findings published in the Neuron journal, even a single dose of psilocybin given to lab mice caused an immediate and long-lasting rise in the neuron connections made in the brain.
Could Psilocybin Play a Crucial Role in the Treatment of Depression?
According to Alex Kwan, associate professor of psychiatry and of neuroscience and the senior author of the paper, they didn’t just notice a 10 percent rise in the neuronal connections, but also that they were approximately around 10 percent larger and thus, stronger.
Experiments in the lab done previously have indicated that psilocybin, as well as the anesthetic ketamine, are able to relieve the symptoms of depression.
The new research discovered that these compounds elevate the density of the dendritic spines which are small protrusions on nerve cells that help in the neuronal information transfer.
Depression and chronic stress are known to lower the number of these connections.
By using a laser-scanning microscope, Kwan and the first author Ling-Xiao Shao, a postdoctoral associate at Yale School of Medicine, imaged dendritic spines in high resolution and followed them for several days in living mice.
They concluded that the dendritic spines increased as well as their size within a 24-hour period after administration of psilocybin.
Interestingly, the changes were still present a month after. And, the mice that were subjected to stress experienced behavioral improvements and higher neurotransmitter activity after administered with psilocybin.
The Compound that can Help You Have a Profound Mystical Experience
For some individuals, psilocybin is the key to a profound mystical experience.
In fact, it’s a compound that’s a staple in religious ceremonies in indigenous populations of the New World, but also a popular recreational drug. For Kwan, it’s the new psychological effects of psilocybin that causes a growth in neuronal connections.
And, he adds that these new connections may be the structural changes which the brain uses for storage of new experiences.