Psychedelics in Neurology: Potential for Improving Neuroplasticity (NeurologyTimes):
“Back in the 1950s, research was proving that psychedelic agents could be effective in the treatment of various neuropsychiatric disorders. Unfortunately, just as science was exploring their beneficial effects, the counterculture was exploring and embracing their effects. Slowly but surely, psychedelics were associated with rebellious youth and the tumultuous anti-war movement. As a result, the government shut down most of the research.
The 1990s saw renewed interest in psychedelic compounds as a means to address neuropsychiatric disorders. Research explored the benefits of MDMA and ketamine to treat mood disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder. Now, a new study sheds even more light on the promise these agents might provide.
Neurology Times invited corresponding author David E Olson, PhD, to discuss the study, “Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity,” which appeared in the June issue of Cell Reports…
NT: What should clinicians take away from this research? What does this mean for the field?
Dr Olson: I’m hopeful that modern research on ketamine and psychedelics will lead to new and more effective strategies for treating mood and anxiety disorders that involve promoting neural plasticity in the prefrontal cortex. We have to think of depression and related diseases as disorders of neural circuits rather than “chemical imbalances.” Plasticity-promoting compounds are one possible method for repairing the circuits that are damaged in diseases like depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.”
Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity (Cell Reports). From the abstract:
- Atrophy of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays a key role in the pathophysiology of depression and related disorders. The ability to promote both structural and functional plasticity in the PFC has been hypothesized to underlie the fast-acting antidepressant properties of the dissociative anesthetic ketamine. Here, we report that, like ketamine, serotonergic psychedelics are capable of robustly increasing neuritogenesis and/or spinogenesis both in vitro and in vivo. These changes in neuronal structure are accompanied by increased synapse number and function, as measured by fluorescence microscopy and electrophysiology. The structural changes induced by psychedelics appear to result from stimulation of the TrkB, mTOR, and 5‑HT2A signaling pathways and could possibly explain the clinical effectiveness of these compounds. Our results underscore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and, importantly, identify several lead scaffolds for medicinal chemistry efforts focused on developing plasticity-promoting compounds as safe, effective, and fast-acting treatments for depression and related disorders.
The Study in Context:
- Can you grow your hippocampus? Yes. Here’s how, and why it matters
- How learning changes your brain
- 20 Must-Know Facts to Harness Neuroplasticity and Improve Brain Health
- New book by Michael Pollan: How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
- Classic book by Aldous Huxley: The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell