Psychedelic drugs change brain cells in ways that could help fight depression, addiction and more

The study, led by UC Davis chemist David E. Olson, was published Tuesday, June 12th, in the journal Cell Reports. The discovery of this neurite-promoting property could shed light on why these chemically distinct drugs all appear helpful in treating depression, anxiety, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, Olson said.

In test tubes as well as in rats and flies, psychedelic drugs as diverse as LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin and ketamine all share this knack for promoting neural “plasticity,” the ability to forge new connections (called neurites) among brain cells. In particular, the drugs appeared to fuel the growth of dendritic spines and axons, the appendages that brain cells of all sorts use to reach out in the darkness and create connections, or synapses, with other brain cells … In lab dishes, they found that LSD and chemical compounds that mimicked psilocybin and ecstasy increased the complexes of branches sent forth by rats’ cortical neurons on a par with ketamine. The effect was “remarkably potent” in LSD, even at very low doses… and did so by a mechanism thought to be at work in ketamine. Both psilocybin and ketamine, their findings suggested, appear to promote the growth of axons and dendrites by setting off a cascade of neurochemical events normally governed by the mTOR gene, which in turn triggers production of proteins necessary for the formation of new synapses. In rats, the psilocybin treatment produced results that persisted for hours after the compound had been cleared from the body. That suggests that in humans, the drug’s neuroplasticity-promoting effects could last well after it has worn off.

Original Article (LA Times):
Psychedelic drugs change brain cells in ways that could help fight depression, addiction and more
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