In today’s fun-recreational-substances-that-may-also-have-medical-uses news, research published this week in Experimental Brain Research suggests psilocybin mushrooms may have positive effects for victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. The study, led by Dr. Briony Catlow of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, found that low doses of psilocybin eased conditioned fear in mice.
A group of mice–some dosed with shrooms, some not–were conditioned to fear a particular sound (through electric shocks that happened after it played, unfortunately), then listened to the same sound the next day, without the accompanying shocks. Those mice that received psilocybin were able to quickly dissociate the sound from the shocks, while the sober animals continued to be frozen in fear, despite not actually feeling any pain.
“Memory, learning, and the ability to relearn that a once threatening stimuli is no longer a danger absolutely depends on the ability of the brain to alter its connections,” said Catlow. “We believe that neuroplasticity plays a critical role in psilocybin accelerating fear extinction.”
The team may eventually perform similar tests on humans with the hope that, just as mice were trained to stop associating a particular stimulus with the pain that once came along with it, people with PTSD may be able to use shrooms to beyond past traumas.