JUN 13, 2018 05:42 AM PDT

Psychedelics May Serve as Potential Treatment for Depression

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Research at the University of California is examining the effect of hallucinogenic drugs on the brain and how this research can potentially provide some answers in treating depression and other mental disorders. The latest findings have shown the ability of these psychedelic drugs to change the neurons and glial cells present in the brains of rat and flies; primarily increasing the connectivity between neuronal cells.

Although depression has long been believed to be asocated with chemical imbalances in the brain, recent research has provided evidence of how structural changes in parts of the brain can also be associated with depression. For example, in a recent fMRI study, the hippocampus was found to be around 9 to 13 percent smaller among individuals afflicted with depression.

Senior author David E. Olson discussed that “one of the hallmarks” of depression is the presence of shriveled up neurites in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain concerned with emotion and mood regulation. “People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure, but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis,” he said. “What is really exciting is that psychedelics seem to mirror the effects produced by ketamine.”

Despite multiple limitations, Ketamine was studied to have antidepressant properties. Olson and co-researchers were particularly interested in how psychedelics could hold the similar effects of ketamine on neurons grown in a petri dish. But after treatment with a dose of DMT (a psychedelic compound), rats had an increase in the number of dendritic spines, which was similar when these rat model were treated with ketamine.

"These are some of the most powerful compounds known to affect brain function, it's very obvious to me that we should understand how they work," said Olson. With these research findings, it was crucial to bring the risks of psychedelics into light. For one, the drugs could induce forms of psychotic disorders particularly in individuals who are genetically predisposed.

The researchers tested psychedelics from the amphetamine, tryptamine, and ergoline drug classes. Talaverabeads/Pixabay, Image via MedicalDaily.com

A professor of clinical psychiatry, by the name of Richard A. Friedman, at the Weill Cornell Medical College, believes that psychedelics may be behaviorally toxic, as well as an addictive similar to cocaine or alcohol. “Psychedelics might turn out to have real promise, but that needs to be proven through large, rigorous, placebo-controlled trials. We’re not there yet,” he cautioned.

About the Author
  • Nouran enjoys writing on various topics including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
You May Also Like
SEP 30, 2018
Drug Discovery
SEP 30, 2018
Researchers Re-classify the 'Magic Mushroom' Drug
Researchers at John Hopkins have evaluated the safety and efficacy of compound, psilocybin, found in hallucinogenic mushrooms. They suggested that if evalu...
OCT 16, 2018
Neuroscience
OCT 16, 2018
Your brain tells if a placebo can treat pain
Placebo effect and predicting when a particular subject will have a placebo response by using as little as psychological questionnaires....
NOV 05, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 05, 2018
Potential Antidote to Botulism is Found
A microbe called Clostridium botulinum and sometimes two other strains of Clostridium bacteria can make a toxic chemical called botulism....
NOV 10, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 10, 2018
Scientists Engineer a Better Way to Direct Evolution
Directed evolution is a Nobel-prize winning technique that has now been simplified and accelerated....
NOV 15, 2018
Drug Discovery
NOV 15, 2018
Anti-inflammatory Drug Works Like an Inhibitor
At Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, a team of scientists from multiple disciplines have worked together to develop an inflammation inhibitor. The new anti-...
NOV 21, 2018
Drug Discovery
NOV 21, 2018
Drug Could Seek New Approach For Autoimmunity
From a failed pain drug, a protein called ‘BH4’, was recently discovered to have surprising implications in the treatment of autoimmunity and c...
Loading Comments...