Psychedelic drug Psilocybin, a naturally occurring compound found in some mushrooms, has been analysed as a potential treatment for depression for years. 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. But its longevity in the brain and how long its beneficial results might last is still unclear.
Psilocybin Mushrooms works on the serotonin receptors of our brain. They work by affecting our receptors for certain neurotransmitters, the chemical messenger in our brain. Most Psilocybin directly affects the serotonin receptors of our brain. Previous laboratory experiments had shown promise that psilocybin, as well as anaesthetic ketamine, can decrease depression. The new Yale research found that these compounds increase the density of dendritic spines, small protrusions found on nerve cells that aid in the transmission of information between neurons. Chronic stress and depression are known to reduce the number of these neuronal connections.
In a research study by Yale University, it was recognised that a single dose of psychedelic drug Psilocybin given to mice prompted an immediate and long-lasting increase in connections between neurons. "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 Alex Kwan, Yale's associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience.
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. They found increase in the number of dendritic spines and in their size within 24 hours of administration of psilocybin. Also, mice subjected to stress showed behavioural improvements and increased neurotransmitter activity after being given psilocybin.
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."