Psilocybin treats major depression

Joy Ride
3 min readNov 17, 2021

It is about flexibility

Art by Anna Deveaux, M.Sc.

Major depressive disorder is a significant problem. Current medications widely accepted in the field are well-known antidepressants that usually take weeks to months to take effect and require daily repetitive doses.

Strikingly, psilocybin (an active ingredient of certain mushrooms) takes just two days, requires one or two separate doses with therapy sessions in between. The resolution of depressive symptoms is almost immediate and lasts weeks to months.

Home run?

According to a team of prominent researchers that published a very recent review in prestigious Nature Research (Translational Psychiatry), psilocybin therapy acts by increasing cognitive and neural flexibility.

Flexibility is a category of the brain’s executive functions or processes necessary to control goal-directed behavior.

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to adapt our behavior and thinking in response to the environment.

Neural flexibility is, in fact, the process of different brain networks “talking” to each other.

From an infant to a senior

Typically, infants have limited cognitive flexibility; however, in neurotypical humans, that ability develops quickly from early childhood through adolescence and adulthood, peaking and maturing between the second and third decades of life and declining in late life. Significant variability in the flexibility is observed between healthy individuals and even more so in people with autism, attention deficit disorder, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse disorder, late-life onset dementia, including Parkinson Alzheimer’s disease. Dementias are marked by rigidity and cognitive inflexibility.

In younger adults, executive ability is correlated with efficiency in brain dynamics. As time passes and people reach more advanced age, this ability relies more on the efficiency of the brain’s networks.

Behavioral flexibility exists in animals which may indicate maturation of cognitive function is determined by nature rather than nurture.

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Joy Ride

Learner, writer, biotech investor, research translation, drug development, genetics. 4-lingual.