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

iencing an altered sense of time and space, and unusual physical sensations -- correlated with a decreased flow of oxygen and blood to parts in the brain's posterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), the study authors said.

It's thought that the posterior cingulate cortex plays a role in consciousness and self-identity. Research has shown the medial prefrontal cortex to be especially active in people struggling with depression, so psilocybin's effect on this area of the brain could be responsible for some of the antidepressant effects reported in previous research, the study authors said.

Nutt and his colleagues also found that psilocybin reduced blood flow in the hypothalamus, where blood flow increases in people with cluster headaches. Some headache sufferers have reported that psilocybin improved their symptoms.

"Psilocybin was used extensively in psychotherapy in the 1950s, but the biological rationale for its use has not been properly investigated until now. Our findings support the idea that psilocybin facilitates access to personal memories and emotions," Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, and first author of both studies, said in the news release.

"Previous studies have suggested that psilocybin can improve people's sense of emotional well-being and even reduce depression in people with anxiety. This is consistent with our finding that psilocybin decreases mPFC activity, as many effective depression treatments do. The effects need to be investigated further and ours was only a small study, but we are interested in exploring psilocybin's potential as a therapeutic tool," Carhart-Harris added.

The study authors reiterated that both trials contained small numbers of participants, and further research into psilocybin's effects on the brain is needed.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about

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