A paper published in the journal Scientific Reports documents a study in which 19 patients diagnosed with treatment-resistant major depression were administered psilocybin. Participants received pre-treatment and one-day post-treatment functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to determine the effects of the molecule on brain activity.
The authors of the paper state that psilocybin has an ancient and recent history of medicinal use. The molecule can produce emotional breakthroughs and altered perspectives when administered in a supportive environment augmented by integrative measures.
The aim of the study was to analyse changes in brain activity associated with the ingestion of psilocybin. Subjects were given a 10mg dose, followed by a 25mg dose one week later. Cerebral blood flow (CBF) and functional connectivity were measured one day before and one day after the treatment period. The researchers chose to prolong the final measurement to one day after treatment in order to measure the mood-enhancing effects of the so-called “afterglow”, a positive psychological state that follows the use of psychedelics.
The results showed that administration of psilocybin produced a rapid and sustained antidepressant effect, with all 19 patients exhibiting some reduction in depressive symptoms at 1 week. Changes in both resting-state brain blood flow and functional connectivity were identified. Decreased brain blood flow to the amygdala was observed, which correlated to a decrease in depressive symptoms. Interestingly, the amygdala is a region of the brain associated with emotions, survival instincts, fear, anxiety, and memory.
Other findings included increased ventromedial prefrontal cortex resting-state functional connectivity and decreased resting-state functional connectivity in the parahippocampal-prefrontal cortex 5 weeks after treatment. The researchers state that these lasting changes suggest a “reset” therapeutic mechanism, although further research using larger sample sizes and control groups is required.