Discovery of potential therapeutic benefits of 'Magic Mushrooms'
According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Brain Research, researchers found out that psychedelics may have medical benefits for PTSD and short-term memory loss patients.
The research began in 2008 as Briony Catlow's dissertation study and aimed to find the function of neurogenesis throughout the life cycle, the process in the brain that creates new neurons in the part of the brain responsible for "recording" new memory. The study was co-authored by Dr. Juan Ramos-Sanchez, a neurology professor and their basic idea was to explore if and if yes, how Psilocybin could alter a very strong learning paradigm - fear conditioning.
The researchers put mice in boxes with an electrically charged floor and conditioned them with a specific sound that would go off when the mice would receive a shock. Using trace conditioning the mice made the conditioning a memory connecting the sound with the electric shock. The researchers expected that the Psilocybin would inhibit neurogenesis and make the mice learn the conditioning quicker, but Dr. Juan Ramos-Sanchez said that "all the mice learned at the same rate and that it did not really matter if a low or high dose had been administered; they all adapted to the conditioning in the same time."
Then the set-up was changed to sound without electric shock.
The mice were deeply conditioned and the sound alone made the mice freeze in anticipation of the electric shock, but what really baffled the researchers were the mice under the influence of Psilocybin. Those mice more quickly than the mice in the control group realized that the sound no longer heralded the electric shock and in the third lap the mice with administered Psilocybin had lost all fear of the sound and showed no reaction at all, which Sanchez-Ramos considered "the big breakthrough, because those mice learned to disassociate the fear-response behavior much faster."
For PTSD patients this could mean that the use of Psilocybin in therapies could help them to disassociate from the stimuli of painful memories. However, Sanchez-Ramos warned that this does not necessarily mean every patient suffering from PTSD should go out and pop in magic mushrooms, but that it could be an adjunct to their psychotherapy. He pointed out that "these things can not and should not be conducted without associated psychotherapy."
In addition to that, unpublished research has also shown that the neurogenesis of mice significantly increased, when they were given a low dose of Psilocybin once a week and that to an extend more than researchers believed was possible. Sanchez-Ramos concluded that these results mean that Psilocybin might quite possibly be a means to treat memory issues associated with neurological degeneration and that this kind of research puts the focus on the need of finding safer and more effective drugs with little or no side-effects, that enhance memory and cognitive ability.