Psychedelics have shown promise in treating diverse mental health disorders, but exactly how they rewire the mind remains a mystery. A small 2022 study from Imperial College in London provides some answers. Patients with severe depression were given either psilocybin or a popular antidepressant (escitalopram). The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity pre-dose and three weeks after. The results were enlightening: The antidepressant group reported mild improvement in depressive symptoms but the scans showed the stubborn signs of depression remained: neural activity was constrained within certain brain regions, reflecting rigid thought patterns. Those given psilocybin, on the other hand, reported rapid, sustained improvement in their depression, and scans showed neural activity across large regions of the brain that persisted for the three weeks—suggesting that psilocybin “liberates” the brain.
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