Mouse Study Shows Microdoses of Psilocybin Can Combat Anhedonia

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have discovered that microdoses of psilocybin, the main psychoactive agent in mushrooms, may be able to alleviate anhedonia. The study used a mouse study to discover that regular small doses of the psychedelic may offer therapeutic benefits against stress-induced anhedonia, a condition that strips individuals of their ability to feel pleasure, and compulsive behavior.

Furthermore, psilocybin exhibited therapeutic effectiveness in mice with anhedonia and compulsive behaviors without inducing side effects such as schizophrenia-like symptoms and anxiety.

The University of Southern Denmark University team published its findings in the “Molecular Psychiatry journal.

Most of the past studies involving psilocybin typically measure the effect of high psilocybin doses and traditional talk therapy against conditions such as addiction and depression. This type of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has exhibited significant effectiveness in prior studies, but scientists still haven’t researched the potential effects of psychedelic microdosing in great detail.

Microdosing refers to the use of smaller doses. It has gained popularity in culturally significant places, including Silicon Valley, where an increased number of high-power professionals have reported microdosing various psychedelics to improve their mental clarity. Since microdosing involves taking doses that aren’t large enough to trigger a psychedelic experience, it allows individuals to potentially enjoy some of the benefits of psychedelics without being intoxicated.

University of Southern Denmark Department of Clinical Research associate professor and study author Mikael Palner says he was especially interested in how psychedelic drugs interact with the serotonergic system. His master’s thesis focused on developing radiotracers for positron emission tomography (PET) scans of 5-HT2A receptors, and Palner’s attention turned to microdosing during his time as a Stanford University postdoc from 2012 to 2015.

Palmer and his colleague Martin Korsbak Madsen first carried out a human study analyzing psilocybin bound to the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor and how this binding impacted the psychedelic experience. Their findings paved the way for the recent animal study with new and more scientific means of defining microdoses, Palner says.

The research team used 78 Long Evans rats and housed them under several different controlled conditions. After establishing what constituted a “microdose” the researchers provided the mice with psilocybin microdoses every other day for 24 days. Throughout the study, they measured several metrics including compulsive actions, reaction to stress and anxiety levels.

The scientists found that regular psilocybin microdosing was associated with increased resistance to stress-induced anhedonia, a condition that regularly affects people with depression. The research team also found that regular psilocybin microdoses did not result in behavioral desensitization, meaning potential treatments could be consistently effective when used long-term.

This safety for long-term use is a major plus for psychedelic treatments. Companies such as Seelos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SEEL) are looking to commercialize hallucinogenic formulations as an answer to the various concerns people have about the side effects of many of existing mental-health treatments.

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