The compound found in "magic mushrooms" has significant and fast-acting impact on the brains of rats.
- Psilocybin and psilocin are chemical compounds found in "magic mushrooms."
- A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found very interesting results when psilocybin was administered to rats to research the potential impact the chemical could have on the human brain.
- Several studies have suggested that psilocybin could be a treatment for depression.
The study: magic mushrooms and the prefrontal cortex/hippocampus of rats<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc4MzI1OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzQxNjMwN30.JfKdSYpIUNFturZD_1QL788zveT2UHNXo33dLd_MK7E/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C299%2C0%2C299&height=700" id="ac809" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f87bcf6bacfca976a5bbcb028e790ee9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="mushrooms growing on log in a forest psilocybin magic mushrooms study" />
Psilocybin increases the expression of several genes related to neuroplasticity in the brain of rats after just one dose.
Photo by bukhta79 on Adobe Stock<p>The study examined the acute effects of a single dose (0.5-20mg/kg) of psilocybin on the brain of rats. In total, 45 genes and 8 reference genes were assessed using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction. The corresponding protein levels of the three most commonly regulated genes were then assessed using Western blotting.<br></p><p><strong>In the prefrontal cortex, the drug increased the expression of the following:</strong></p><ul><li><a href="https://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=CEBPB" target="_blank">CEBPB</a> (protein-coding gene)</li><li><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/c-fos" target="_blank">c-Fos</a> (a proto-oncogene)</li><li><a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01446/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">DUSP-1</a> (protein-coding gene)</li><li><a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/98/20/11042" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FOSB</a> (protein-coding gene) </li><li><a href="https://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=JUNB" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">JunB</a> (protein-coding gene)</li><li><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4282558/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">IkBa</a> (inhibitor gene)</li><li><a href="https://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=NR4A1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nr4a1</a> (growth factor gene) </li><li><a href="https://www.jwatch.org/jp201012060000001/2010/12/06/p11-protein-and-depression" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">P11</a> (protein)</li><li><a href="https://molecularbrain.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13041-019-0520-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Psd95</a> (protein) </li><li><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gene/6446" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SGK1</a> (protein-coding gene)</li></ul><p>The drug also decreased the expression of <a href="https://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=CLK1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CLK1</a>, an enzyme that, in humans, is encoded by the CLK1 gene. </p><p><strong>In the hippocampus, psilocybin strongly increased the expression of: </strong></p><ul><li><a href="https://www.phosphosite.org/uniprotAccAction?id=Q8TBH0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Arrdc2</a> (protein) </li><li><a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01446/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">DUSP-1</a> (protein-coding gene)</li><li><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4282558/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">IkBa</a> (inhibitor gene)</li><li><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gene/6446" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SGK1</a> (protein-coding gene)</li></ul><p>The drug also decreased the expression of <a href="https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/memory-gene-goes-viral#:~:text=The%20neuronal%20gene%20Arc%20encodes,that%20mediates%20intercellular%20RNA%20transfer." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ARC</a> (neuronal gene encoder), <a href="https://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=CLK1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CLK1</a>, <a href="https://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=EGR2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EGR2 </a>(protein-coding), and <a href="https://www.genecards.org/cgi-bin/carddisp.pl?gene=PTGS2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PTGS2</a> (protein-coding). The protein levels of certain genes (IkBa, DUSP1, and SGK1) showed only partial agreement with transcriptional patterns, which stresses the importance of assessing downstream translation with these kinds of rapid gene responses.</p><p><strong>What does this mean? </strong></p><p>This study demonstrates that psilocybin not only includes gene expression that's heavily related to neuroplasticity, but it does so as a very rapid response to the chemical. The results were biased towards the prefrontal cortex compared to the hippocampus, but the findings of this study provide undeniable evidence for the rapid plasticity-promoting effects of psilocybin. </p>
Can magic mushrooms treat depression?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="44a65f388fea7701426102fac072709e"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/pxuaYPff-14?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Several studies (including <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-13282-7" target="_blank">this one from 2017</a>) have suggested that <a href="https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/a-new-study-finds-a-psychedelic-treatment-for-depression-with-a-side-of-mushrooms" target="_self">psilocybin could be a treatment for depression</a>. In this study, 19 patients were given two incrementally larger doses of psilocybin administered one week apart. MRI scans were taken of the brains of patients before and after the doses were administered. The results of the study showed that the chemical reduced and then increased the amount of blood flow to (and thus changing the activity levels of) different regions of the brain, some of which are associated with depressive symptoms.</p><p>The patients of this study also self-reported improved mood spikes lasting for up to five weeks after the ingestion of psilocybin. The patients even explained that they felt as though their brains had been "reset" or "rebooted" - this effect being known (in unscientific settings) as the "afterglow" of psilocybin use. </p><p><strong>Psychedelic drugs (like psilocybin) may hold untold potential in treating not only depression but anxiety and addiction, as well.</strong> </p><p>While researchers are still pursuing how psychedelics like psilocybin could be beneficial to human brains, there are some theories surrounding how psychedelics could help in addiction therapies. </p><p>"People will often report a changed relationship in observing themselves. I think this is much like what we refer to as mindfulness: someone's ability to view their own motivations and behaviour from a more detached and less judgemental perspective," said Matthew Johnson, a professor of psychology at Johns-Hopkins University who is <a href="https://www.vice.com/en/article/bmvdnm/how-psychedelic-drugs-psilocybin-lsd-could-help-treat-addiction" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">testing psilocybin in a trial aimed at nicotine addiction.</a></p>
Getting plenty of sleep just became even more important.
- A new study finds that people without sleep fare better in learning what to fear and not fear than those getting only some sleep.
- Test subjects learned to associate colors with electric shocks, but only some unlearned it.
- The findings could be used to help create new treatments for those at risk of PTSD or anxiety.
Nothing quite like a full night’s rest<p> The <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2451902220302822?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a>, titled "Partial and Total Sleep Deprivation Interferes with Neural Correlates of Consolidation of Fear Extinction Memory," was published by a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School and can be found in the journal <a href="https://www.journals.elsevier.com/biological-psychiatry-cognitive-neuroscience-and-neuroimaging" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging</a>.</p><p>The researchers split 150 test subjects into three groups. The first got a full night's sleep, the second was "sleep-restricted" to a few hours' rest at the beginning of the night, and the third was utterly sleep deprived. Starting the next morning, they were all subjected to "fear conditioning" and "fear extinction." <br> <br> The conditioning involved participants seeing one of three colors on a screen, two of which were paired with a mild electric shock. The idea being that this teaches a person to begin to develop a fear of that color. Later, the subjects underwent "fear extinction," which had them viewing one of the colors again, but without the shocks. This step is intended to teach subjects that there is no longer a reason to fear that image and that it is now "safe."<br> <br> Later that evening, the test subjects viewed the colors again while having their brains scanned. This allowed the scientists to see if their brains were reacting to the colors with fear despite having "learned" that electric shocks were no longer a threat. <br> <br> Curiously, the brains of those getting no sleep resembled those of the people who enjoyed a full night's rest twelve hours later in that the fear response was absent. Those getting only a few hours of sleep showed signs of fear in their brain activity. This suggests that getting only a little rest might be <em>worse</em> than getting none at all, at least when it comes to learning and unlearning fear responses. </p><p>Brain activity recorded during the tasks painted a similar picture. Those who got a full night's sleep had more activity in the prefrontal cortex, an area tied to emotional regulation. In comparison, those getting only half a night's rest saw more activity in the regions associated with fear. Those getting no sleep had less activity in the fear areas overall. </p><p>The research team suggests that restricted sleeping may lead to a severe reduction in the time we spend in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid_eye_movement_sleep" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Rapid Eye Movement</a> (REM) phase of sleep. While best known for being the part of the night when we dream, it is also when memories are consolidated. REM tends to occur at the end of 1.5-2 hour periods during sleep. </p>
How can we use this information?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1Y-qLKZWyDs" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> This study may help explain why people in high-stress jobs with short sleep schedules, such as emergency response workers, medical professionals, or soldiers, can leave people even more anxious or shell shocked.<br> </p><p>Conceivably, this could be used to help develop new treatments for these conditions. In the meantime, more research is needed before you decide to stay up for a week to avoid developing a phobia. </p>
A recent NIHR report found that students with previously low connectedness scores saw improvement in well-being and eased anxiety.
- With coronavirus resurging in Europe and the United States, parents are worried about their children's well-being and mental health.
- A report from the U.K.'s NIHR extends some hope; it found that students' mental health is improving while remote learning.
- Parents will continue play an important role in supporting their children's mental health.
Shining under pressure<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc2NDM5Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1OTIyMjQ2NX0.3nKlCkjZgn6V4cDEtcDUklSt69Hg6QiB7c_GUF2H-6w/img.jpg?width=980" id="27e7e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7b1b4ab8639aa220da628503c258310d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
U.K. showed a reduction of at-risk depression scores during the pandemic lockdown.
Credit: NIHR<p>"<a href="https://sphr.nihr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Young-Peoples-Mental-Health-during-the-COVID-19-Pandemic-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Young People's Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic</a>" report surveyed more than 1,000 Year 9 students (ages 13 to 14) in the United Kingdom. This ongoing study aims to chronicle the relationship between social media use and adolescents' mental health. Because the study participants took the initial survey in October 2019, researchers were able to compare the students' pre-pandemic baseline with their responses several months into lockdown. (Schools closed in the U.K. in mid-March; follow-up surveys were completed in April and May.)</p><p>The researchers discovered that mental health among the U.K.'s adolescents has, surprisingly, improved during these trying times. Although 90 percent of students agreed that COVID-19 is a serious issue, their responses indicated an overall decrease in their risk of anxiety, an increase in their well-being, and no major changes to their risk of depression.</p><p>The most improvement was seen in students struggling with poor mental health. Students with low well-being scores in October last year showed a 10-point gain on the Warwick-Edinburgh Wellbeing Scale; meanwhile, students with previously average-to-high well-being scores showed no significant change. Students at risk of anxiety and depression also showed small advances in their Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale scores. The only group showing a heightened risk of depression were girls, and the difference was slight.</p><p>What caused this mental uplift among U.K. youth? While the study does not attempt to answer that question, the researchers speculate it may be "due to the removal of stressors within the school environment, such as pressure of academic work, and challenging peer relationships including bullying." </p><p>Another possibility is that this cohort's pandemic stressors are more externally focused. They cited their top three concerns as worrying their friends or family would catch the disease, worrying over friends and family's mental health, and worrying about missed school. Far fewer were anxious about catching the disease or the lockdown's effect on their friendships, job prospects, or the larger economy.</p>
Maintaining critical connections<p>The researchers asked about students' connectedness with school, peers, and family, too. Students reported an increased connection with school and no change in their relationships with friends and family. Those with the lowest connectedness scores in the baseline survey again saw the greatest gains in well-being scores and anxiety reduction scores. And, of course, social media use has supersized.</p><p>The researchers write, "As schools fully re-open, it is important to consider ways to prevent a rise in anxiety back to pre-pandemic levels."</p><p>There are limitations to the study, however, and we should be careful not to extrapolate these data too broadly. Younger children, the researchers note, do not have the same level of access to social media as their older peers nor are their vital social interactions as easily digitized. The playground cannot be translated into text and emojis with the same fidelity as the lunchroom clump. As a consequence, younger children may be experiencing a very different pandemic. That may also be true for young people undergoing transitional periods in their life.</p><p>Nor did the researchers see the same improvements in vulnerable student populations, such as LGBTQ teens and those with disabilities. These students reported higher anxiety and depression scores pre-pandemic and did not see the same improvements in the pandemic follow-up survey. This outcome suggested to the researchers that these students continued to experience stressors even when not attending school physically.</p><p>Finally, there's no indication that teens in other countries will face the pandemic the same. In countries with weaker social safety nets, such as the U.S., students may be far more worried about the virus's impact on their health and future prospects.</p>
Love in the time of COVID<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e79f38ede41f077864502fed9c56854e"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_oaTmbdv4Ps?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The National Institute for Health Research's report showing young teens are more resilient than adults may give them credit, but it bases its findings on student responses from mere months into the pandemic. Unfortunately, we won't know how remote education and prolonged shutdowns will affect them until they've been experienced. This reality means parents still play a critical role in supporting their children's mental health.</p><p>Parents looking for strategies can find resources at <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/parental-resource-kit/adolescence.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Centers for Disease Control</a>, <a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/staying-home-during-covid19-help-teens-cope" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Johns Hopkins Children's Center</a>, and other health institute websites. In general, experts recommend keeping adolescents on a routine that supports learning, exercise, and social connection. This schedule should lead them to accomplish goals, partake in their interests, and engage with social activities—even if those social engagements must be taken online.</p><p>Yes, screen time will increase but parents need to remember that <a href="https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/screen-time-for-kids" target="_self">not all screen time is created equal</a>. There's a difference between screen time dedicated to, say, playing board games with friends versus mindlessly wandering the social media wastes. Parents will still need to incorporate boundaries and converse regularly with teens on what information they are receiving about coronavirus and the pandemic.</p><p>As Nilu Rahman, Johns Hopkins Children's Center senior child life specialist, said: "Teens have great access to the internet and some of what they're reading about the coronavirus and the pandemic might be scaring them, even if they don't say so." Rahman added that "parents should make sure kids are not going down rabbit holes and getting confused or frightened by false information."</p><p>Parents should also remain alert for changes in behavior, as these may signal boosted stress or other underlying mental health concerns. Rahman recommends parents look out for extreme eating habits, changes in sleep patterns, signs of self-harm, increased isolation, or their children not enjoying their favorite hobbies and past times.</p><p>"Parents know their children best," she says, "so if something seems off about their teen, they should trust their instinct and find out what's going on, especially if the child has a history of depression or anxiety."</p>
The color of toys has a much deeper effect on children than some parents may realize.
- The idea that blue is for boys and pink is for girls plays out in gender reveals and in the toy aisle, but where does it come from and what limits is it potentially placing on children?
- Lisa Selin Davis traces the gendering of toys and other objects back to the 1920s and explains how, over time, these marketing strategies were falsely conflated with biological traits.
- The "pink-blue divide" affects boys and girls on a psychological level. For example, psychologists discovered that when girls exit their intense 'pink princess' phase between ages 3-6 and move into a tomboy 'I hate pink' phase at age 6-8 "that is actually a moment of girls realizing that what's marked as feminine is devalued and so they're distancing themselves from it to prop themselves up higher on the ladder," says Selin Davis.
Distancing doesn't have to mean distant.