Psychedelic drugs could treat depression and other mental illnesses, according to a new study

Business Insider | 6/13/2018 | The Conversation
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Psychedelic drugs can change the structures of neurons in the human brain, according to a recent study.

Neuronal structure impacts how the brain is wired and how we feel, think, and behave.

Depression - Result - Imbalance - Changes - Circuits

Depression is not simply the result of a "chemical imbalance," it also involves structural changes in key neural circuits that regulate emotion, anxiety, memory, and reward.

It's possible that these drugs can make long-lasting changes on brain function and could be used to repair circuits that are damaged in mood and anxiety disorders.

Psychedelics - Perception - Research - Colleagues - Structures

It seems that psychedelics do more than simply alter perception. According to the latest research from my colleagues and me, they change the structures of neurons themselves.

My research group has been studying the effects of psychedelics on neuronal structure and function, and we found that these compounds cause neurons to grow. A lot. Many of these compounds are well-known and include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocin (from magic mushrooms), N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT, from ayahuasca) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, aka ecstasy).

Drugs - Brain - Function - Research - Structure

These are among the most powerful drugs known to affect brain function, and our research shows that they can alter the structure of the brain as well. Changes in neuronal structure are important because they can impact how the brain is wired, and consequently, how we feel, think and behave.

Prior to our study, there were relatively few compounds known to have such drastic and rapid effects on neuronal structure. One of those compounds was ketamine — a dissociative anesthetic and quite possibly the best fast-acting antidepressant that we have available to us at the moment.

Neuron - Tree - Dendrites - Branches - Spines

If you think of a neuron like a tree, then its dendrites would be the large branches, and its dendritic spines — which receive signals from other neurons — would be the small branches. Some of these small branches might have leaves, or synapses in the case of...
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