The study that *actually* confirms how psychedelics are changing our brains

The study that *actually* confirms how psychedelics are changing our brains

The study that *actually* confirms how psychedelics are changing our brains

There is a lot of talk about psychedelic drugs in the wellness world at the moment. Whether it’s micro-dosing, MDMA or ketamine-assisted therapy, or other alternative solutions to treating anxiety and depression, wellness communities have assumed for a long time that these psychedelics are *probably* capable of altering neuronal structure, brain structure, and more,

But now, a study by a team of scientists and researchers at the University of California, published in the journal of Cell Reports, has shown clearly and unequivocally that this hypothesis is true! So, while therapeutics and psychedelics still need to be treated with caution (and should not be self-dosed without appropriate guidance), the great news is that we are starting to get more of a clear understanding of the actual impact that these substances can have on brain structure, brain cells and ultimately - brain function! This is a huge step forward in the psychedelic game, and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.  

The fascinating study on how ‘psychedelics promote structural and functional neural plasticity (linked here) has looked into the impact that these substances have on our brain structure.

For a while now, it has been thought that people with these mood disorders have a brain that is structured differently (or changes in structure over time) than those without these mental health conditions. It is thought that those who struggle to have weaker parts of the brain that control emotion (known as the prefrontal cortex) and that many of the branches and spines of the neurons in this prefrontal cortex (which communicate with each other) are thought to retract and shrink over time too. What this means is that the dense brain connections in the prefrontal cortex often don’t function as they are meant to, totally impacting the way that the brain is supposed to function.

The study took this concept of understanding and looked into the ability that psychedelic drugs (LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin, and ketamine) hold to change plasticity within the brain, as well as the structure and function of the brain in the prefrontal cortex and beyond.

A major focus of the study was to look into compounds that have a fast-acting change on the brain rather than the more slow-acting, traditional support mechanisms like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, such as Prozac and Zoloft. This is particularly interesting with the recent findings that there is no consistent evidence of there being an association between serotonin levels and depression. This recent systemic umbrella review of the ‘serotonin theory’ opens up another opportunity for psychedelics to take the lead in the race against beating and battling mood-disorders, so this California-based study comes at a very interesting time.

The incredible findings from the study concluded that psychedelic drugs *are* able to promote neural plasticity and can push neurons to grow, branch out and create new connections with other brain cells, creating new connections or synapses across the brain - impacting the brain structure and function.   

Here are some of the most interesting takeaways from the study:

Drugs like ketamine, LSD, psilocybin MDMA and DMT, and other psychedelics are capable of significantly increasing neuronal structure, the number of synapses, and their function;
The chemical impact of psilocybin is thought to have the same effect - and work through the same mechanisms in the body - as ketamine and produced results that persisted for many hours after the psilocybin had been removed from the body (meaning the neuroplasticity of this drug can last well after it has worn off);
The effect of LSD is ‘remarkably potent’ even at very low doses (supporting microdosing as a powerful concept); and
The psychedelic drug DMT was also thought to continue to rewire the brains of the rats in the study for up to 24 hours after.

This is the first study of its kind, specifically being able to document the power of specific drugs and the impacts on the neural function and structure of our brains.  

Before this study, it was really thought that ketamine was the only big player in town - but this new data and research shows that there are many other therapeutically-backed options that could help with overhauling mood disorders and the brain structure.

So, to a future of insanely exciting new health hacks! I can’t wait to see where this goes - and I hope you find this study as interesting as I did. 

With love,

Jena x