Compound in Magic Mushrooms Could Treat Depression

By Carl Engelking | May 9, 2014 10:55 am

shrooms

Psilocybin, the naturally occurring psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, is a Schedule I illegal drug in the United States, which means it serves no legitimate medical purpose. But researchers in Switzerland believe psilocybin could help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

In a new study, researchers from the Psychiatric University Hospital of Zurich have shown that even small amounts of psilocybin can weaken the way our brains process negative emotions and provide a positive mood lift. Psilocybin, researchers conclude, could aid in normalizing depressive patients’ exaggerated processing of negative stimuli.

Psilocybin on the Brain

To test how psilocybin affects the brain, researchers recruited 25 healthy individuals and gave one group a small dose of the hallucinogen, and another a placebo. They monitored participants’ brain activity in real time using fMRI while participants were shown photos. Some photos depicted negative scenes, such as aggressive animals, weapons, and injured people; others displayed neutral everyday scenes, such as a couple riding bikes. The researchers also used questionnaires to assess participants’ mood before and after taking the drug.

The researchers found that a part of the brain called the amygdala, which processes negative emotions like anxiety and fear, showed very different activity in the two groups. Subjects who had taken psilocybin showed less activity in their amygdala in response to both negative and neutral stimuli, and they reported a boost in mood. And the two were related: the greater the amydala dampening in response to negative images, the bigger the mood boost.

Researchers recently published the results in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Testing Depressive Patients

As part of the central circuitry of emotion, the amygdala is thought to be a key player in the development of depression and anxiety.

Rainer Krahenmann, the study’s author, said the next step is to investigate whether psilocybin normalizes amygdala function in patients who are diagnosed with depression. He said further research of the compound could lead to novel approaches for treating the mental disorder.

 

Photo credit: Shots Studio/Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
  • Rooby

    They gave people shrooms and then showed them photos of weapons and injured people? That´s pretty dark

    • emma852

      My Uncle Nathaniel recently got a nearly
      new red Chrysler 200 Sedan only from working part time off a home pc… find
      out this here F­i­s­c­a­l­P­o­s­t­.­ℂ­o­m

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Michael Melaugh

        I know your your uncle Nathaniel he’s awesome!!! (Weird guy though)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

    To list these mushrooms as a Schedule I drug is complete nonsense, it is in no way based on observable data, if anything the images shown to the participants should be made illegal because they do more damage to the psyche than any mushroom. Don’t get me wrong there is potential for misuse but only in a small percentage of the population. Psilocybin has far more of a good character to it than THC.

  • Becky Ballinger

    This is interesting research on depression and anxiety. As I suffer from both, I’d like to keep abreast of this new line of research.

    • KevinLawson

      Yeah, that’s what Angelina Jolie said and now she will live forever.

  • Leanne Beattie

    This might turn out to be a useful aid in treating PTSD.

  • unStunned

    Researchers have also found psilocybin to be very helpful with terminally ill patients. Also, it’s quite a bit of fun!

  • James38

    Well, here is a surprise for some folks. We actually don’t think with our brains, so the detailed studies of the structure of the brain as related to various types of memory and emotion etc. are actually analogous to studying the functions of the keyboard as it relates to the text being typed. Assuming that the keyboard is the source of the imagery in the text leads to odd conclusions that have nothing to do with the real situation. However, since defects in the keyboard do interfere with the intended or optimum content in the output, understanding the real relationships can be difficult to decipher – especially if the observer has no grasp on the actual source of consciousness.

    Unchecked assumptions are difficult to expunge, especially when the assumptions are so deeply rooted as to seem immune to doubt or question. The basic assumption here is that consciousness results from brain activity. This assumption has reached the level of a universal religious principle in the world of science. Belief in this assumption has become a requisite for acceptance as a “real” scientist. Based among other things on a rejection of religion, which is properly seen as nonsense when based on belief in improvable assumptions, the irony is clear. We are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    As a first step, science needs to remember that all assumptions must be questioned, even the most deeply rooted ones. Simply remember that if there is an alternate explanation that cannot be eliminated clearly, it must not be discarded out of hand, even if it appears to be less likely for any reason.

    Assuming that the brain is the source of consciousness does require that evidence be ignored – evidence suggested by persons who have out-of-body experiences, telepathy, past-life memories, etc. Since these types of evidence are notoriously difficult to examine or replicate, it is easy for those imbued with the latest version of Scientific Faith in the brain to dismiss them as fantasies. However, a more open minded approach will reveal an astonishingly widespread and consistent recurrence of these reports, and a deep study shows that the evidence, properly studied, stands up well to scrutiny – certainly well enough to merit ongoing consideration.

    Psilocybin (which must be metabolized into psilocin to have its effect) is one tool for exploring the actual relationship of consciousness to the body, and will prove to be so when unnecessary restrictions on its use are removed. LSD, mescaline, and dimethyl/diethyl tryptamine are other important tools for these avenues of research. All of these substances have extremely important potential, and the restrictions on their use by competent and qualified researchers (“civilian” as well as “professional”) by hysterical puritans are absurd.

    The “Drug War” creates Drug Lords. It also promotes ignorance and cruel results, is a gigantic destructive waste of money, and should be eliminated at once. It is a source of funding for terrorism, and has no useful result at all.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Jacob

      Yes, there are many ways we experience “thinking”, however, to take the brain out of the equation simply results in such thoughtless and ignorant banter as never before displayed so accurately but in your long winded comments.

      • James38

        Ah so, a member of the faithful speaks. But Jacob, I didn’t “…take the brain out of the equation…”, I simply offered an alternate way to see its effect and role in the interplay of consciousness and the physical plane.

        So my comment was “thoughtless and ignorant” and “long winded”? As opposed to your succinct and ignorant and blinkered comment? My, my: on what flimsy tissues of faith you base your “understanding” of reality.

      • MihiCuraFuturi

        I wish downvoting worked around here.

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