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New Study Shows Promise with Psychedelics on Depression, Longevity and Dementia


Most people are now seeing the renaissance on psychedelics as part of our new paradigm from studies being done with organizations like MAPS or Johns Hopkins, new movies or docuseries like Fantasitic Fungi or Michael Pollan's How to Change Your Mind and just general buzz in the social sphere.



Psychedelics are being used in positive, life-changing ways:

  • Treating mental health conditions. Psychedelics are being investigated as a potential treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and addiction. Studies have shown that psychedelics can be effective in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life for people with these conditions.

  • Enhancing creativity and problem-solving. Psychedelics have been shown to increase creativity and problem-solving abilities. This is because psychedelics can help people to think outside the box and to see problems from new perspectives. This can be helpful for artists, entrepreneurs, and anyone else who needs to be creative or solve problems.

  • Promoting personal growth and development. Psychedelics can help people to connect with their inner selves and to gain a new perspective on their lives. This can lead to positive changes in behavior, attitudes, and relationships.

  • Exploring spiritual or religious practices. Psychedelics have been used for centuries in spiritual and religious practices. They can help people to connect with a higher power or to experience a sense of oneness with the universe. This can be a profoundly meaningful experience for many people.

Now, there has been a new study released that points toward a new mechanism by which psychedelics work regarding antidepressant effects. We hear all the time about the 5-HT2A receptor activation but this is a new finding.


In this fascinating study, researchers found that psychedelics bind to a receptor called TrkB (Tropomyosin receptor kinase B), which is involved in the growth and survival of neurons. This binding leads to increased levels of BDNF (Brain derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that is essential for neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to change and adapt.


The findings suggest that psychedelics may promote neuroplasticity, which could be one of the ways in which they exert their antidepressant effects.


This is more confirmation on previous findings that psychedelics can be a powerful source in helping alleviate depression. Here are some of the key takeaways from the study:

  • Psychedelics bind to the TrkB receptor, which is involved in the growth and survival of neurons.

  • This binding leads to increased levels of BDNF, a protein that is essential for neuroplasticity.

  • The findings suggest that psychedelics may promote neuroplasticity, which could be one of the ways in which they exert their antidepressant effects.

Here is a key portion of the article that explains why this is such an important finding:


We recently reported that pharmacologically diverse antidepressants, including fluoxetine and ketamine, act by binding to TrkB, the receptor for BDNF. Here we show that lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocin directly bind to TrkB with affinities 1,000-fold higher than those for other antidepressants, and that psychedelics and antidepressants bind to distinct but partially overlapping sites within the transmembrane domain of TrkB dimers. The effects of psychedelics on neurotrophic signaling, plasticity and antidepressant-like behavior in mice depend on TrkB binding and promotion of endogenous BDNF signaling but are independent of serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2A) activation, whereas LSD-induced head twitching is dependent on 5-HT2A and independent of TrkB binding. Our data confirm TrkB as a common primary target for antidepressants and suggest that high-affinity TrkB positive allosteric modulators lacking 5-HT2A activity may retain the antidepressant potential of psychedelics without hallucinogenic effects.

(emphasis mine)


This study is an important step in understanding the mechanism of action of psychedelics. It suggests that these compounds may have the potential to be used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including depression without having to take time to travel to a retreat or find a practitioner in a decriminalized area to have a macrodose psychedelic experience. Although I personally feel that there is a very important reason to incorporate a ceremony practice in the use of psychedelics, some people are not good candidates for macro journeys in general such as those with a family history of bipolar disorder or psychosis.



"However, recent reports suggest that the hallucinogenic effects of psychedelic compounds can be separated from their antidepressant-like and plasticity-promoting effects indicating that it may be possible to find compounds or treatment combinations that retain the antidepressant effects of psychedelics, but are devoid of the hallucinogenic effects. "

Research on the effects of psychedelics on neuroplasticity suggests that these drugs may have the potential to extend lifespan as well.


Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and adapt. It is essential for learning, memory, and recovery from injury. Studies have shown that psychedelics can increase neuroplasticity, which could lead to a number of benefits, including improved cognitive function, mood, and resilience to stress.


In addition, psychedelics have been shown to protect neurons from damage. This could help to prevent or delay the onset of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.


A study published in the journal Aging in 2022 found that LSD can protect neurons from damage and improve cognitive function in older adults.


More studies are underway and only in preliminary stages, but there is suggestion that psychedelics may have the potential to extend lifespan and improve cognitive function in older adults.


This is very exciting news for people who want to help improve their chances of warding off dementia as well.



To reiterate, these studies show some of the reasons why psychedelics may be helpful in preventing Alzheimer's or dementia:

  • Psychedelics can increase neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change and adapt. This is important for learning, memory, and recovery from injury. Studies have shown that psychedelics can increase neuroplasticity, which could help to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's or dementia.

  • Psychedelics can protect neurons from damage. Alzheimer's and dementia are caused by the death of neurons in the brain. Psychedelics have been shown to protect neurons from damage, which could help to prevent or delay the onset of these diseases.

  • Psychedelics can improve cognitive function. Studies have shown that psychedelics can improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer's or dementia. This could help to improve the quality of life for people with these diseases.

It is important to note that more research is needed to confirm the potential benefits of psychedelics in preventing Alzheimer's or dementia. Currently, there are no FDA-approved psychedelic drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's or dementia. However, there are several clinical trials underway to investigate the potential benefits of psychedelics for these diseases.


This is a lifeline for some where other treatments may not be helping.


This is an exciting time in the world of psychedelics and more and more scientific studies are proving what many cultures throughout the world have known instinctively for ages.


References:

Calder, A.E., Hasler, G. Towards an understanding of psychedelic-induced neuroplasticity. Neuropsychopharmacol.48, 104–112 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-022-01389-z


Moliner, R., Girych, M., Brunello, C.A. et al. Psychedelics promote plasticity by directly binding to BDNF receptor TrkB. Nat Neurosci26, 1032–1041 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-023-01316-5


Calvin Ly, Alexandra C. Greb, Lindsay P. Cameron, Jonathan M. Wong, Eden V. Barragan, Paige C. Wilson, Kyle F. Burbach, Sina Soltanzadeh Zarandi,Alexander Sood,Michael R. Paddy,Whitney C. Duim,Megan Y. Dennis,A. Kimberley McAllister et al. Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity. Cell Reports 2018 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2018.05.022

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