TUNE IN, TURN OFF…

Guru Magazine - - In The News -

A sur­pris­ing dis­cov­ery when sub­stances MiLe psiMo­cy­bin were first stud­ied was that they re­duce ac­tiv­ity in the brain, rather than in­creas­ing it, and the greater this re­duc­tion, the greater the psy­che­delic

ef­fects. One of the ar­eas where ac­tiv­ity is re­duced the most is the an­te­rior cin­guMate cor­tex, and Pro­fes­sor Nutt was struck by the fact that many other de­pres­sion treat­ments, such as deep

brain stim­u­la­tion, an­tide­pres­sants, and med­i­ta­tion, also switch off th­ese ar­eas. Th­ese minute re­cep­tors are mainly found in the two most im­por­tant brain re­gions for ty­ing to­gether dif­fer­ent brain func­tions like mem­ory, move­ment, and per­cep­tion (the an­te­rior cin­gu­late cor­tex and the pos­te­rior cin­gu­late cor­tex). Th­ese are part of what neu­ro­sci­en­tists call the ‘ de­fault mode

net­work’: brain re­gions that fire when we’re not do­ing any­thing in par­tic­u­lar other than re­flect­ing or re­mem­ber­ing. Ac­tiv­ity in dif­fer­ent parts of this net­work is usu­ally syn­chro­nised, but this breaks down in peo­ple tak­ing magic mush­rooms. In other words, the ex­pe­ri­ence of a ‘trip’ might have some­thing to do with dis­rupt­ing the brain’s abil­ity to tie to­gether all its dif­fer­ent func­tions. This ‘de­fault’ net­work is widely be­lieved to be used when be­ing in­tro­spec­tive, and de­pres­sion is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with ob­ses­sively ru­mi­nat­ing about our failings or mis­for­tunes. So it makes sense that a drug that in­ter­feres with this net­work might af­fect de­pres­sion. When all this is added to many anec­do­tal ac­counts of self-treat­ment, it makes a com­pelling case for study­ing psilo­cy­bin as a treat­ment for se­vere de­pres­sion. There is also ev­i­dence it might be

one of the only ef­fec­tive treat­ments for one of the most painful con­di­tions there is – clus­ter headaches. And whether laws and reg­u­la­tions are up­dated to make it eas­ier or not, Pro­fes­sor Nutt is press­ing ahead.

ABOVE: David Nutt at the post

talk press con­fer­ence.

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