Psilocybin dissolution of the ego is explained by the redistribution of glutamate in the brain

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy showed that when taking psilocybin in the prefrontal cortex increases the concentration of glutamate. The authors of the article in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology believethat glutamate activates serotonin receptors which are affected by psychedelics — that would explain the altered mental status when taking psychoactive substances. Indeed, the concentration of glutamate better than other parameters predicted the level of dissolving ego after consuming psilocybin. Interestingly, in the hippocampus the amount of glutamate, on the contrary, decreased, and this effect correlated with a pleasant loss of personal identity.

Psychedelics — psychoactive substances that enter a person into an altered state of consciousness. Among the effects of psychedelics — the dissolving of the ego, or the loss of personal identity, the destruction of boundaries between self and world and a sense of oneness with others. These properties of psychoactive substances, scientists propose to use in the treatment of some psychiatric disorders and clinical studies confirm the effectiveness of psychedelics for depression, anxiety and addiction.

The major mechanism of action of psychedelics believe the stimulation of serotonin receptors in pyramidal neurons of the cerebral cortex. Activation of these receptors leads to the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate, the excitation of neurons in the prefrontal cortex and the chain of changes in the activity of this brain region. Researchers have suggestedthat glutamate is a mediator of the influence of psychedelics and the basis of the possible therapeutic effects of these substances. However, this hypothesis is not yet tested, and the relationship between the drugs and the change in the level of glutamate in the brain has not been proven.

Scientists from Britain, Germany and the Netherlands under the leadership of Johannes Ramakers (Johannes Ramaekers) from Maastricht University used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (Mrs) with ultra-high magnetic field (seven Tesla) to examine the distribution of glutamate in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus sixty people after taking psilocybin (0.17 milligrams per kilogram) or placebo. The participants of the experiment have also made structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and six hours after ingestion of the substance, the volunteers filled out a questionnaire on signs of an altered state of consciousness and the dissolving of the ego.

After taking psilocybin the participants of the experiment were higher altered States of consciousness and the dissolution of the ego (p < 0.001) and a higher concentration of glutamate in the prefrontal cortex (p = 0.01) than in the control group. In the hippocampus the concentration of glutamate was higher in the placebo group (p = 0.03). Functional MRI has identified a number of standard “networks of peace”, the active parts of the brain. Functional connectivity within these networks after taking psilocybin was weakened, and between networks is strengthened, which is typical under the influence of psychoactive substances.

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