Tag Archives: Neuroscience

Psychedelics Show Promise in Treating Mental Illness

Summary: A growing body of evidence suggests psychedelics including psilocybin and LSD show promise in providing lasting relief from symptoms for those suffering some mental health disorders. Researchers found DOI, a similar drug to LSD, reduced negative behavioral responses following fear triggers in mouse models of anxiety.

Source: Virginia Tech

One in five U.S. adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, according to the National Alliance of Mental Health. But standard treatments can be slow to work and cause side effects.

To find better solutions, a Virginia Tech researcher has joined a renaissance of research on a long-banned class of drugs that could combat several forms of mental illness and, in mice, have achieved long-lasting results from just one dose.

Using a process his lab developed in 2015, Chang Lu, the Fred W. Bull Professor of Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering, is helping his Virginia Commonwealth University collaborators study the epigenomic effects of psychedelics.

Their findings give insight into how psychedelic substances like psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, and similar drugs may relieve symptoms of addiction, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The drugs appear to work faster and last longer than current medications—all with fewer side effects.

The project hinged on Lu’s genomic analysis. His process allows researchers to use very small samples of tissue, down to hundreds to thousands of cells, and draw meaningful conclusions from them. Older processes require much larger sample sizes, so Lu’s approach enables the studies using just a small quantity of material from a specific region of a mouse brain.

And looking at the effects of psychedelics on brain tissues is especially important.

Researchers can do human clinical trials with the substances, taking blood and urine samples and observing behaviors, Lu said. “But the thing is, the behavioral data will tell you the result, but it doesn’t tell you why it works in a certain way,” he said.

But looking at molecular changes in animal models, such as the brains of mice, allows scientists to peer into what Lu calls the black box of neuroscience to understand the biological processes at work. While the brains of mice are very different from human brains, Lu said there are enough similarities to make valid comparisons between the two.

VCU pharmacologist Javier González-Maeso has made a career of studying psychedelics, which had been banned after recreational use of the drugs was popularized in the 1960s. But in recent years, regulators have begun allowing research on the drugs to proceed.

In work by other researchers, primarily on psilocybin, a substance found in more than 200 species of fungi, González-Maeso said psychedelics have shown promise in alleviating major depression and anxiety disorders. “They induce profound effects in perception,” he said. “But I was interested in how these drugs actually induce behavioral effects in mice.”

To explore the genomic basis of those effects, he teamed up with Lu.

This shows a psychedelic brain
The drugs appear to work faster and last longer than current medications—all with fewer side effects. Image is in the public domain

In the joint Virginia Tech—VCU study, González-Maeso’s team used 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine, or DOI, a drug similar to LSD, administering it to mice that had been trained to fear certain triggers. Lu’s lab then analyzed brain samples for changes in the epigenome and the gene expression. They discovered that the epigenomic variations were generally more long-lasting than the changes in gene expression, thus more likely to link with the long-term effects of a psychedelic.

After one dose of DOI, the mice that had reacted to fear triggers no longer responded to them with anxious behaviors. Their brains also showed effects, even after the substance was no longer detectable in the tissues, Lu said. The findings were published in the October issue of Cell Reports.

It’s a hopeful development for those who suffer from mental illness and the people who love them. In fact, it wasn’t just the science that drew Lu to the project.

For him, it’s also personal.

“My older brother has had schizophrenia for the last 30 years, basically. So I’ve always been intrigued by mental health,” Lu said. “And then once I found that our approach can be applied to look at processes like that—that’s why I decided to do research in the field of brain neuroscience.”

González-Maeso said research on psychedelics is still in its early stages, and there’s much work to be done before treatments derived from them could be widely available.

Abstract

Prolonged epigenomic and synaptic plasticity alterations following single exposure to a psychedelic in mice

Highlights

  • Exposure to the psychedelic drug DOI results in enduring molecular adaptations
  • Post-acute DOI unveils phenotypes akin to antidepressant adaptations
  • Concurrent occurrence of synaptic plasticity mediated via 5-HT2AR

Summary

Clinical evidence suggests that rapid and sustained antidepressant action can be attained with a single exposure to psychedelics. However, the biological substrates and key mediators of psychedelics’ enduring action remain unknown.

Here, we show that a single administration of the psychedelic DOI produces fast-acting effects on frontal cortex dendritic spine structure and acceleration of fear extinction via the 5-HT2A receptor.

Additionally, a single dose of DOI leads to changes in chromatin organization, particularly at enhancer regions of genes involved in synaptic assembly that stretch for days after the psychedelic exposure. These DOI-induced alterations in the neuronal epigenome overlap with genetic loci associated with schizophrenia, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Together, these data support that epigenomic-driven changes in synaptic plasticity sustain psychedelics’ long-lasting antidepressant action but also warn about potential substrate overlap with genetic risks for certain psychiatric conditions.

SOURCE: https://neurosciencenews.com/psychedelics-doi-lsd-anxiety-19682/

Neuroscientist: Orgasms Can Be Used To Reach An ‘Altered State of Consciousness’

Amanda Monteiro
August 25th,2020

A study revealed that a rhythmic stimulation during sex alters brain activity and can produce a trance-like state. One must actively engage in being present during sex to experience this result. Are your sexual connections simply primal? Or are they present and spiritual in nature? If achieving an altered state of consciousness is an experience you’d like to have, follow some of the advice below. Connection is key.

When it comes to sex and sexual pleasure, it seems like there is always something new to be learned. The realm of sex has perplexed humans for many decades, probably due to the growing evidence of a deeper connection being made with ourselves and our partner.

The desire for a deeper connection provides further proof to our obsession to know more about how the functions of sex affect our connectedness with self, and others.

What Happened: Neuroscientist Adam Safron of Northwestern University explains, “sex is a source of pleasurable sensations and emotional connection, but beyond that, it’s actually an altered state of consciousness.

In an article published in Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, Victoria Klimaj and Adam Safron delve into unlocking the mystery of the orgasm. “The conditions shaping sexual climax may be particularly complex in humans, whose sexual behaviour is characterized by cultural shaping, abstract goals, and frequent non-reproductive motivations.”

They concluded their research with the help of a number of scientists who are experts in the study of the orgasm. These contributors are evolutionary psychologists, animal behaviour experts, fMRI researchers, and investigators specializing in the analysis of large-scale surveys.

Dr. Safron has learned that a rhythmic stimulation alters brain activity. When we are sexually stimulated, our neurons focus in a particular way that it’s hypnotizing, and we block out everything we are usually conscious of like noises, feelings and smells, and concentrate intensely on sensation alone.

This level of concentration cannot be achieved through any other natural stimulation. Our self-awareness is essentially gone in that moment.

“Sex is a source of pleasurable sensations and emotional connection, but beyond that, it’s actually an altered state of consciousness,” Dr. Safron explains.

Dr. Safron investigated this trance by creating a europhenomenological model that displayed which rhythmic sexual activity likely influences brain rhythms. The model showed that our neurons can be focused by stimulating particular nerves in a particular way at a particular speed.

When they begin to synchronize their activity, neural entrainment is achieved and if stimulation proceeds for a longer length of time, the synchronization spreads throughout the brain enabling us to become more focused than ever.

“Before this paper, we knew what lit up in the brain when people had orgasms, and we knew a lot about the hormonal and neurochemical factors in non-human animals, but we didn’t really know why sex and orgasm feel the way they do,” Dr. Safron said.

Why Rhythm Plays A Crucial Role: The study revealed a common theme: sexual climax, seizures, music, and dance all flood the brain’s sensory channels with rhythmic inputs. Dr. Safron believes that because sexual activity is so similar to music and dance, the rhythm-keeping ability may serve as a test of fitness for potential mates.

“Synchronization is important for signal propagation in the brain, because neurons are more likely to fire if they are stimulated multiple times within a narrow window of time,” says Dr. Safron.

This led Dr. Safron to hypothesize that “rhythmic entrainment is the primary mechanism by which orgasmic thresholds are surpassed.”

“The idea that sexual experiences can be like trance states is in some ways ancient. Turns out this idea is supported by modern understandings of neuroscience,” says Dr. Safron.

This constant rhythmic stimulation is very similar to the practices preached by 46-year-old Nicole Daedone of OM or Orgasmic Meditation. The technique is a sequenced practice in which one partner gently strokes the other partner’s clitoris for 15 minutes. The result is said to be therapeutic, rather than sexual. The “stroking” allegedly activates the limbic system and releases a flood of oxytocin.

This whole practice reiterates the idea that in order to fully achieve orgasm (or anything else of substance in life) you must actively engage in being present and release the pressure we allow society to instil within us. When we surrender to the universe and in this instance, our feeling, we enter into a world of bountiful possibility.