Recent findings suggest that a single dose of psilocybin can bring relief from depression. Scientists have hypothesized that synaptogenesis—the formation of new synapses in the nervous system—plays a crucial part in this.
To test that hypothesis, a team of researchers based mainly in Denmark has given single doses of psilocybin to 24 pigs. One day after psilocybin injection, the researchers found statistically significant increases in synaptic density in the hippocampi and the prefrontal cortices of the selected pigs’ brains, as well as a dramatic drop in the density of the serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR). A week after injection, a spike in synaptic density was still evident, whereas the changes in 5-HT2AR density had vanished.
The results of this study indicate that increased synaptic density, in conjunction with pronounced reductions in 5-HT2AR density, may indeed be a contributing factor in psilocybin’s ability to alleviate depression.
Changes in synaptic density in the brain’s hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, both of which are linked to the processing of emotion, may be intimately tied to the pathophysiology of major depression. A loss of synapses has been found in the brains of depressed human subjects, further implying that synaptogenesis may be linked to the antidepressant properties of psychedelic compounds like psilocybin.
Damon Orion is a writer, journalist, musician, artist and teacher living in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California. More of his work can be found at DamonOrion.com.