Mushrooms May Light Way to Depression Treatment

Psilocybin dampens areas of brain linked to depression, studies suggest
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2012 2:34 AM CST
Updated Jan 28, 2012 7:00 PM CST
Trippy Mushrooms May Light Way to Depression Treatment
Psilocybin in the psychedelic element in mushrooms.   (Flickr)

(Newser) – Far out. Hallucinogenic mushrooms' effect on the human brain may provide valuable clues for scientists seeking treatments for depression. Two studies into the effects of psilocybin, the active ingredient in "magic mushrooms," reveal that it suppresses activity in the same areas of the brain dampened by anti-depressant treatments, reports Reuters. "Psychedelics are thought of as 'mind-expanding' drugs so it has commonly been assumed that they work by increasing brain activity," said a researcher at Imperial College London, who discussed the studies. But they actually decrease activity in certain areas, including the medial prefrontal cortex, which is known to be hyperactive in depression.

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"We're not saying go out there and eat magic mushrooms," said the researcher. "But this drug has such a fundamental impact on the brain that it's got to be meaningful, it's got to be telling us something about how the brain works. So we should be studying it and optimizing it if there's a therapeutic benefit." (Read more magic mushrooms stories.)

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