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Pioneering research

In the last decade, a number of research groups in Europe and the Americas have conducted studies into the safety and effectiveness of psychedelics for conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research is the first to gain this level of stature within a major academic institution.

When delivered safely and professionally, psychedelic therapy holds a great deal of promise for treating some very serious mental health conditions.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris

Head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research

Ours was the first Centre in the world to investigate the brain effects of LSD using modern brain imaging and the first to study psilocybin – the active compound in magic mushrooms – for treating severe depression. These studies have laid the groundwork for larger trials that are now taking place around the world. Other pioneering work from the group includes breakthrough neuroimaging research with psilocybin, MDMA and DMT (the psychoactive compounds found in ecstasy and ayahuasca respectively).

Earlier this year the group began a new trial directly comparing psilocybin therapy with a conventional antidepressant drug in patients with depression – a study for which they are still recruiting volunteers. Building on this, they also plan to begin another new trial next year to explore the safety and feasibility of psilocybin for treating patients with anorexia.

Dr Carhart-Harris adds: “It may take a few years for psychedelic therapy to be available for patients, but research so far has been very encouraging. Early stage clinical research has shown that when delivered safely and professionally, psychedelic therapy holds a great deal of promise for treating some very serious mental health conditions and may one day offer new hope to vulnerable people with limited treatment options.”


If you are a student interested in conducting research with our Centre, please see the page join our research team.

Research publications

Citation

BibTex format

@article{Carhart-Harris:2017:10.1038/s41598-017-13282-7,
author = {Carhart-Harris, RL and Roseman, L and Bolstridge, M and Demetriou, L and Pannekoek, JN and Wall, MB and Tanner, M and Kaelen, M and McGonigle, J and Murphy, K and Leech, R and Curran, HV and Nutt, DJ},
doi = {10.1038/s41598-017-13282-7},
journal = {Scientific Reports},
title = {Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-13282-7},
volume = {7},
year = {2017}
}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

TY  - JOUR
AB - Psilocybin with psychological support is showing promise as a treatment model in psychiatry but its therapeutic mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, cerebral blood flow (CBF) and blood oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) were measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after treatment with psilocybin (serotonin agonist) for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Quality pre and post treatment fMRI data were collected from 16 of 19 patients. Decreased depressive symptoms were observed in all 19 patients at 1-week post-treatment and 47% met criteria for response at 5 weeks. Whole-brain analyses revealed post-treatment decreases in CBF in the temporal cortex, including the amygdala. Decreased amygdala CBF correlated with reduced depressive symptoms. Focusing on a priori selected circuitry for RSFC analyses, increased RSFC was observed within the default-mode network (DMN) post-treatment. Increased ventromedial prefrontal cortex-bilateral inferior lateral parietal cortex RSFC was predictive of treatment response at 5-weeks, as was decreased parahippocampal-prefrontal cortex RSFC. These data fill an important knowledge gap regarding the post-treatment brain effects of psilocybin, and are the first in depressed patients. The post-treatment brain changes are different to previously observed acute effects of psilocybin and other ‘psychedelics’ yet were related to clinical outcomes. A ‘reset’ therapeutic mechanism is proposed.
AU - Carhart-Harris,RL
AU - Roseman,L
AU - Bolstridge,M
AU - Demetriou,L
AU - Pannekoek,JN
AU - Wall,MB
AU - Tanner,M
AU - Kaelen,M
AU - McGonigle,J
AU - Murphy,K
AU - Leech,R
AU - Curran,HV
AU - Nutt,DJ
DO - 10.1038/s41598-017-13282-7
PY - 2017///
SN - 2045-2322
TI - Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms
T2 - Scientific Reports
UR - http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-13282-7
UR - http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/52018
VL - 7
ER -