New research shows how psilocybin affects neuronal and neurotransmitter systems

A team of researchers constructed a biophysically realistic whole-brain model to further understand the effects of psilocybin in the brain.

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As published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers constructed a biophysically realistic whole-brain model to further understand the effects of psilocybin in the brain.

Psilocybin is an active ingredient in psychedelics, particularly in mushrooms, which induce hallucinogenic effects. Most recently, the substance has been shown to possibly diminish symptoms of treatment-resistant depression through its effects on the serotonin system.

In the new study, researchers analyzed diffusion data from more than a dozen participants who underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. An additional 210 participants were recruited to examine PET scans and another nine participants took MRI scans after psilocybin consumption.

Combining all the data, researchers were able to assemble a biophysically realistic whole-brain model demonstrating the activity of neurons and neurotransmitters during a normal state and after psilocybin consumption.

According to the findings, researchers observed an array of neuronal changes in the brain when psilocybin was introduced systemically. In the brain, networks were disrupted and neurotransmitters forged new pathways between neurons.

“Overall, the results show that the interaction between these dynamical systems is fundamental for explaining the empirical data,” the study’s co-authors wrote.

“In other words, the dynamic mutual interaction between neuronal and neuromodulator systems at the whole-brain level is important to fully explain the functional modulation of brain activity by psilocybin, a powerful psychedelic drug, acting on the serotonin system.”

“The results provide insights into the underlying dynamics of neurotransmission involved in psilocybin.”

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