According to a study, the substance psilocybin, which is contained in magic mushrooms, appears to free up the brains of persons with severe depression in a manner that other antidepressants do not.
The findings, which were based on brain scans of 60 patients, suggest that the medicine could treat depression in a novel way, according to the researchers.
Psychedelics are being researched as a treatment for a variety of mental illnesses.
Patients suffering from depression are advised against using psilocybin on their own.
A synthetic version of the drug is tested on humans in clinical trials under rigorous medical settings, with expert psychiatric assistance offered before, during, and after administration.
The current findings on psilocybin are “interesting” and “important,” according to Prof David Nutt, study author and director of Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research.
According to him, depression can cause the brain to become trapped in a rut and locked into a negative pattern of thinking.
People’s brains opened up and became “more flexible and fluid” up to three weeks after being given psilocybin.
When patients were scanned, greater connections between brain regions could be identified. These patients had a higher chance of improving their mood months later.
People on a typical antidepressant did not experience similar changes in their brains.
Prof Nutt said, “This verifies our first assumptions and demonstrates that psilocybin could be a meaningful alternative strategy to depression therapy.”