A recent study from the Imperial College of London has shown that the use of a component of the so called magic mushroom may be a therapy against depression. The patients described themselves as feeling “reset” after it’s use.
A possible explanation of the results of this experiment is that the psychedelic effect of the psilocybin, while altering the brain functionality and the modulation of the neuron trasmission, seem also to improve the general connectivity of the neuronal networks.
Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy.
The psilocybin molecule is a prodrug, that gets dephosphorylated to become psilocin, which is a substituted tryptamine alkaloid and a serotonergic psychedelic substance. It gives its effects by interacting with various serotonine receptors (it’s a partial serotonine antagonist), binding in particular the 5-HT2A . Psilocin is also linked to indirect effects on the regulation of dopamine.
[…] psilocin indirectly increases the concentration of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the basal ganglia, and some psychotomimetic symptoms of psilocin are reduced by haloperidol, a non-selective dopamine receptor antagonist. Taken together, these suggest that there may be an indirect dopaminergic contribution to psilocin’s psychotomimetic effects.
The study analysed the fMRI of 16 patients before and after the treatment with psilocybin and it showed a lower blood flow in areas of the brain linked to stress and anxiety, like the amygdala. At the same time areas which were active under the depression and the psilocybin effects shown to be more stable.
Based on what we know from various brain imaging studies with psychedelics, as well as taking heed of what people say about their experiences, it may be that psychedelics do indeed ‘reset’ the brain networks associated with depression, effectively enabling them to be lifted from the depressed state.