Psychedelic Spurs Growth of Neural Connections Lost In Depression

Summary: One dose of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms, increases dendritic spine density within 24 hours. The neurobiological changes lasted for a month following psilocybin exposure. Additionally, mice subjected to stress showed behavioral improvements and increased neurotransmitter activity after psilocybin exposure.

Source: Yale

The psychedelic drug psilocybin, a naturally occurring compound found in some mushrooms, has been studied as a potential treatment for depression for years. But exactly how it works in the brain and how long beneficial results might last is still unclear.

In a new study, Yale researchers show that a single dose of psilocybin given to mice prompted an immediate and long-lasting increase in connections between neurons.

The findings are published July 5 in the journalĀ Neuron.

“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,” said Yale’s Alex Kwan, associate professor of psychiatry and of neuroscience and senior author of the paper.

Previous laboratory experiments had shown promise that psilocybin, as well as the anesthetic ketamine, can decrease depression. The new Yale research found that these compounds increase the density of dendritic spines, small protrusions found on nerve cells which aid in the transmission of information between neurons. Chronic stress and depression are known to reduce the number of these neuronal connections.

Using a laser-scanning microscope, Kwan and first author Ling-Xiao Shao, a postdoctoral associate in the Yale School of Medicine, imaged dendritic spines in high resolution and tracked them for multiple days in living mice.

This shows a psychedelic brain
Previous laboratory experiments had shown promise that psilocybin, as well as the anesthetic ketamine, can decrease depression. Image is in the public domain

They found increases in the number of dendritic spines and in their size within 24 hours of administration of psilocybin. These changes were still present a month later. Also, mice subjected to stress showed behavioral improvements and increased neurotransmitter activity after being given psilocybin.

For some people, psilocybin, an active compound in “magic mushrooms,” can produce a profound mystical experience. The psychedelic was a staple of religious ceremonies among indigenous populations of the New World and is also a popular recreational drug.

It may be the novel psychological effects of psilocybin itself that spurs the growth of neuronal connections, Kwan said.

“It was a real surprise to see such enduring changes from just one dose of psilocybin,” he said. “These new connections may be the structural changes the brain uses to store new experiences.”

About this depression and psychedelics research news

Source: Yale
Contact: Bess Connolly – Yale
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: The research will appear in Neuron

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.

    100 microdots sellotaped under the bed.
    One or two every weekend in the woods.
    Half a dot was normally ok.
    Two days of heaven on earth.
    Bonfire and sleeping bag.

    Relaxing like you have never relaxed before.
    This is, initially, the frightening bit,
    because the ego does not like to be anniahlated – albiet temporary –
    but the trick is to go with it.
    Sinking into the earth.
    Like water, spreading out for ever.

    The (incredible intricate) mandalas and distortions,
    are simply the ego (temporarily) dissolving your conditioning.
    Like ice melting. To reform later.

    Awareness of the blank space between two dreams, which you are normally unconcious of in sleep.
    Now a luminous void, where the ego drifts like a whispy transparent cloud.
    You are nowhere and everywhere. Nothing and everything.

    Depending on dose and circumstances, you sometimes reach a point of complete concious vacancy. Dissolving through a white light where you involuntary cry out in ECSTACY.

    If this is death, I am looking forward to it. AGAIN.

    Serious people tensions of the week – dissolving to nothing.
    Like a Charlie Chaplin comic. And you are giggling uncontrollably.

    Better alone in the woods away from people, because people re-ignite the ego again, (Attack / Defence) –

    But, after timeless time, the drug wears off. I (reluctantly) come back, to the so called “Real” world”

    I have reached the furthest limits (non limit) of my self. Non self.

    But this time things are going to be MY way.

    No more working for control freaks, with their guilt & fear games.

    And mother with her muddled contradictory emotional controlling games. Playing one against the other.

    “Love” etc is just to get you into the marriage baby financial TRAP.

    Learn a very useful trade, and be financially independant.
    I did. Signpainting. Changed my life forever.

    Hop skip & jump. Stay free of controllers. Do not get involved.
    Float like a butterfly. and sting, if necessary, like a bee. (M. Ali. Boxer.)

    The experience was a whole new world of discovery.
    From the Dark ages to the Renaissance.

    Now 50 years later. Never forgotten.


  2. I would love to try mushrooms or ketamine.So tired of depression, anxiety and lack of motivation!!

  3. What is considered a dose in th study? And what would that equivalent for a 220lb male? (Asking for a friend)

  4. I can’t find the actual research paper. What is the dose administered to achieve this effect?

Comments are closed.