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Study Suggests Psilocybin Mushrooms Trigger Enhanced Benefits on Brain Compared to Synthetic Versions

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New research suggests that hallucinogenic mushrooms that contain psilocybin may be useful in the treatment of conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Professor Bernard Lerer, the author of the study, stated that researchers were interested in psychedelics’ potential in managing treatment-resistant psychiatric disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and even schizophrenia.

Lerer, a psychiatry professor and the director of Hebrew University’s Hadassah BrainLabs Center for Psychedelic Research, explained that many reports had proposed that using extracts from mushrooms that contain psilocybin could have effects that were quantitatively and qualitatively different from chemical psilocybin, which is what the research team focused on during the study. Current clinical research primarily uses chemically synthesized psilocybin versions. While it is effective, mushrooms that contain psilocybin have a mixture of nonpsychoactive and psychoactive compounds that influence their therapeutic effects.

The researchers have called this effect the entourage effect, suggesting that a psychedelic’s therapeutic potential may not be linked only to its primary active compound but also to other compounds present. For their research, the investigators used adult male mice, which were divided into three groups: those receiving chemically synthesized psilocybin, those receiving the mushroom extract and those receiving a control solution made of saline.

The researchers’ objective was to determine whether the existence of other compounds in the naturally derived extract could provide additional benefits that weren’t observed with chemically synthesized psilocybin. In order to evaluate the possible neuroplasticity induced by psilocybin as well as the immediate behavioral effects, the investigators used the head twitch response assessment. They also assessed the effects of the drugs on synaptic protein levels, noting considerable differences.

For starters, the levels of the PSD95, GAP43, SV2A and synaptophysin synaptic proteins increased in some brain regions when mushroom extract was administered. These proteins are needed for synaptic development, growth and plasticity, which suggests that the extracts may promote a stronger neuroplastic response in comparison to chemically synthesized psilocybin.

The investigators’ analysis also showed metabolic changes in the mice’s frontal cortex when the extract was administered, which suggests that it induced a metabolic state that could contribute to its therapeutic effects. Additionally, the researchers observed that both synthesized psilocybin and the mushroom extract brought on a head twitch response in the mice.

In its report, the team explained that there was no significant different in the behavioral response between either therapies, which indicates that the acute effects of both treatments were similar. The research’s findings were published in the “Molecular Psychiatry” journal.

The findings of this study are likely to attract the attention of start-ups such as Mind Medicine Inc. (NASDAQ: MNMD) (NEO: MMED) (DE: MMQ) that are focused on developing therapeutic formulations from hallucinogenic compounds such as magic mushrooms.

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