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Could 'Magic' Mushrooms Ease Depression?
Date:1/24/2012

TUESDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Psychedelic mushrooms may point to new ways to treat depression, suggest two small brain imaging studies that seem to show how psilocybin -- the active ingredient in such mushrooms -- affects the brain.

One study included 30 healthy people who had psilocybin inserted into their blood while magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners measured changes in their brain activity. The scans revealed that psilocybin caused decreased activity in what the researchers described as the brain's "hub" regions -- areas especially well-connected with other areas.

That study was published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The second study included 10 healthy volunteers and found that psilocybin boosted their recall of personal memories and their emotional well-being for up to two weeks. The researchers said this suggests that psilocybin might prove useful as an adjunct to psychotherapy. That study will be published online Thursday in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

A study published last year found that people with anxiety who received a single psilocybin treatment had lower depression scores six months later.

David Nutt, who's with the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, was the senior author of both of the new studies.

"Psychedelics are thought of as 'mind-expanding' drugs, so it has commonly been assumed that they work by increasing brain activity, but surprisingly, we found that psilocybin actually caused activity to decrease in areas that have the densest connections with other areas," Nutt said in a college news release. "These hubs constrain our experience of the world and keep it orderly. We now know that deactivating these regions leads to a state in which the world is experienced as strange."

The impact of psilocybin reported by the study participants -- such as seeing "geometric" patterns, exper
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