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A New Study Finds a Psychedelic Treatment for Depression, with a Side of Mushrooms
A new study shows that psilocybin can "reset" the brain and put depression in the rear-view mirror.
Depression is one of the most common medical conditions afflicting the world today. However, despite its familiarity, treatments are still wanting. Most common antidepressants are considered to have a low to moderate effect on typical cases. The search for more effective ways to treat depression is of great importance—depression costs a trillion dollars (!) in lost productivity each year and takes the lives of 2-7% of those who suffer from it.
A new study suggests that an effective drug has been under our noses for some time... magic mushrooms.
In a study from the Imperial College in London, nineteen patients were given two incrementally larger doses of psilocybin a week apart. MRI scans were taken on the brains of the patients before and after the trips. It was found that the drugs had the effect of reducing and then increasing the amount of blood flow to and changing the activity levels of differing regions of the brain, some of which are associated with depressive symptoms.
The patients also self-reported improved mood lasting for up to five weeks after ingestion, which was supported by MRI scans showing changed brain activity. The patients went so far as to say that they felt as though their brains had been “reset” or “rebooted”. This effect is well known in unscientific settings as the “afterglow” of psychedelic use.
MRI scans confirmed the idea that the brain’s default mode network had reduced activity during the patient’s trip, a change that previous studies had found. Interestingly, activity in that region increased after the trips, a finding which surprised the researchers. While this area of the brain is typically associated with depression, other areas associated with improved mood also saw heightened activity after the trips. This reduction in activity followed by a restoration to normal levels was dubbed a “reset” mechanism by the authors of the study, who proposed further study into the concept.
Many new studies of depression focus on the default mode network and this effect could prove substantial. Several antidepressant drugs also work with this system to try and reduce the symptoms of depression. The drug used in the study, psilocybin, is the primary drug found in magic mushrooms and is reasonable for the psychedelic effects. The study gave them the equivalent of one to two and a half grams of mushrooms, which is a typical recreational dosage.
It is important to remember when considering this study that it lacked a control group, a vital part of any definitive study. Similarly, it was done on a mere nineteen individuals... which is far too small of a number to take this study as final proof that magic mushrooms can cure depression. Furthermore, it goes without saying that the results of one study done without a control group is no reason to self-medicate. But there are an increasing number of studies being done on mushrooms and their ability to cure - or at least curb - depression.
The results of the study are yet another element of the current interest science has taken in psychedelics. Long banned from medical use and study, recent investigations have shown great potential for treatment of psychiatric disease from these psychedelic drugs. Of course, the placement of psilocybin as a schedule 1 drug in the United States, alongside heroin, will slow down any further investigations.
This study, while small and preliminary, does show another potential treatment for a widespread and often crippling disease. While much more research is needed, the results are promising. Could depression be treated with a trip every once in a while? More research is needed, but it is a tremendous opportunity for new treatments to be developed for people in need.
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.
If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.
- Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
- Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
- One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.
Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.
- Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
- The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
- The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Duke researchers have developed the first gel-based synthetic cartilage with the strength of the real thing. A quarter-sized disc of the material can withstand the weight of a 100-pound kettlebell without tearing or losing its shape.
Photo: Feichen Yang.<p>That's the word from a team in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202003451" target="_blank">new paper</a>, published in the journal,<em> Advanced Functional Materials</em>, details this exciting evolution of this frustrating joint.<br></p><p>Researchers have sought materials strong and versatile enough to repair a knee since at least the seventies. This new hydrogel, comprised of three polymers, might be it. When two of the polymers are stretched, a third keeps the entire structure intact. When pulled 100,000 times, the cartilage held up as well as materials used in bone implants. The team also rubbed the hydrogel against natural cartilage a million times and found it to be as wear-resistant as the real thing. </p><p>The hydrogel has the appearance of Jell-O and is comprised of 60 percent water. Co-author, Feichen Yang, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/lab-first-cartilage-mimicking-gel-strong-enough-knees" target="_blank">says</a> this network of polymers is particularly durable: "Only this combination of all three components is both flexible and stiff and therefore strong." </p><p> As with any new material, a lot of testing must be conducted. They don't foresee this hydrogel being implanted into human bodies for at least three years. The next step is to test it out in sheep. </p><p>Still, this is an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation of one of our trickiest joints. Given the potential reward, the wait is worth it. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.