Study finds magic mushrooms may ‘reset’ the brains of depressed patients

first_imgPinterest Share on Twitter Patients taking psilocybin to treat depression show reduced symptoms weeks after treatment following a ‘reset’ of their brain activity.The findings come from a study in which researchers from Imperial College London used psilocybin – the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms – to treat a small number of patients with depression in whom conventional treatment had failed.In a paper, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers describe patient-reported benefits lasting up to five weeks after treatment, and believe the psychedelic compound may effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression. Email Share on Facebookcenter_img Share Comparison of images of patients’ brains before and one day after they received the drug treatment revealed changes in brain activity that were associated with marked and lasting reductions in depressive symptoms.The authors note that while the initial results of the experimental therapy are exciting, they are limited by the small sample size as well as the absence of a control group – such as a placebo group – to directly contrast with the patients.Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, Head of Psychedelic Research at Imperial, who led the study, said: “We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments.“Several of our patients described feeling ‘reset’ after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt ‘rebooted’. 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.”Over the last decade or so, a number of clinical trials have been conducted into the safety and effectiveness of psychedelics in patients with conditions such as depression and addictions, yielding promising results.In the recent Imperial trial, the first with psilocybin in depression, 20 patients with treatment-resistant form of the disorder were given two doses of psilocybin (10 mg and 25 mg), with the second dose a week after the first.Nineteen of these underwent initial brain imaging and then a second scan one day after the high dose treatment. Carhart-Harris and team used two main brain imaging methods to measure changes in blood flow and the crosstalk between brain regions, with patients reporting their depressive symptoms through completing clinical questionnaires.Immediately following treatment with psilocybin, patients reported a decrease in depressive symptoms – corresponding with anecdotal reports of an ‘after-glow’ effect characterised by improvements in mood and stress relief.Functional MRI imaging revealed reduced blood flow in areas of the brain, including the amygdala, a small, almond-shaped region of the brain known to be involved in processing emotional responses, stress and fear. They also found increased stability in another brain network, previously linked to psilocybin’s immediate effects as well as to depression itself.These findings provide a new window into what happens in the brains of people after they have ‘come down’ from a psychedelic, where an initial disintegration of brain networks during the drug ‘trip’, is followed by a re-integration afterwards.Dr Carhart-Harris explained: “Through collecting these imaging data we have been able to provide a window into the after effects of psilocybin treatment in the brains of patients with chronic depression. 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.The authors warn that while the initial findings are encouraging, the research is at an early stage and that patients with depression should not attempt to self-medicate, as the team provided a special therapeutic context for the drug experience and things may go awry if the extensive psychological component of the treatment is neglected. They add that future studies will include more robust designs and currently plan to test psilocybin against a leading antidepressant in a trial set to start early next year.Professor David Nutt, Edmond J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit in the Division of Brain Sciences, and senior author of the paper, added: “Larger studies are needed to see if this positive effect can be reproduced in more patients. But these initial findings are exciting and provide another treatment avenue to explore.” LinkedInlast_img read more

Five decades on and the world of property hasn’t changed much

first_imgSome of the stories we were covering in 1972 could, with a slight twist, have been written this week. Nine Elms had become interesting because of the move of Covent Garden Market south of the river; today it is the move of the US embassy that is making headlines (and will probably provide the occasion for a president Trump visit now that completion is nearing).The future of the area around Piccadilly Circus was under review, with three big property beasts battling it out; today things have partly been resolved by The Crown Estate renaming Lower Regent Street ‘Regent Street St James’s’. We can only hope that Haymarket doesn’t get similarly homogenised.Housing was a big issue at the time. Developers were seen as the chief cause of the shortage on account of their interest in office development. Harry Hyams was the man the intelligentsia loved to hate, because his development Centre Point remained empty for years, thus becoming an example of property as a trading commodity rather than a provider of social use. It was squatted for a weekend; I wonder if those involved thought the tower (courtesy of Mike Hussey) would be converted into apartments…Housing was a big issue in 1972. Developers were seen as the chief cause of the shortageCompared with today, the 1970s housing ‘shortage’ was a near miracle of supply and demand balance, although then – as now – if you were homeless that was of little comfort. Housing campaign group Shelter was in its first flush, and one can only wonder at how an organisation that has proved so unsuccessful manages to survive.As is sometimes the case in British public life, nothing succeeds like failure: the proposition is that without Shelter, things could have been even worse. Discuss.Bizarre initiativesNow the past seems more like another planet than another country. It is hard now to understand what prompted the madness of ‘office development permits’ and ‘industrial development certificates’, which were the property world’s equivalent of post-war butter ration coupons.Whitehall knew best; the high point of government attempts to ‘control’ the property market came when Anthony Crosland (the public school/Oxford University socialist who hated grammar schools) introduced the Community Land Act in 1975.This proposition lasted about five minutes, but it was a good example of how governments of all persuasions generally misunderstood the property market, thinking that the way to deal with it was by ever-increasing control, red tape and financial penalty.In respect of the office market, this also meant bizarre initiatives such as the publicly funded Location of Offices Bureau, whose role was to try to persuade employers to move their offices out of London because it was so horrible. (Younger readers please note: I am not making this up!)Source: Shutterstock/Paul D SmithEventually, the political establishment realised that the office market was providing the factories of today and decided to leave it alone.The consequence has been a broad balance of supply and demand across many decades; a vacancy rate generally somewhere between 7% and 12%; and in anything other than the very short term, a situation in which tenants have some choice while suppliers need to think about the quality of what they are providing. This has improved both product and choice, as the BCO Awards amply demonstrate.At the BCO dinner, I briefly suggested that those responsible for the housing market might learn something from their commercial peers, but I should have added that it is mostly the political class that needs to review the past 50 years if it wants to understand why housing supply has fallen far too short. Offices and shopping have not, even if for a long period the quality of design left much to be desired. The quantum was OK.This is why the prime minister’s speech at the Conservative Party annual conference was interesting: since when did any PM pledge £2bn to a housing strategy based on proactive policies of a sort not seen in either Tory or Labour policies since the 1960s? Who cares if she had a cough?The question now, for her as it is for London mayor Sadiq Khan, is whether financial commitment and stirring speeches can translate into actual delivery of homes on the ground. I wish I could say I was holding my breath.Paul Finch is programme director of the World Architecture Festivallast_img read more