One Dose of Psilocybin May Help Regrow Brain Connections Lost in Depression


Key Points:

  • Depression often results in the loss of neural connections in the brain.
  • A single dose of psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, may help regrow these connections.
  • New research shows psilocybin increases the number and strength of these connections in the brain’s frontal cortex.

Depression can lead to a loss of neural connections, known as synapses, in important parts of the brain like the frontal cortex.

However, recent research suggests that a single dose of psilocybin, the substance found in magic mushrooms, can help regrow these connections, offering a potential new treatment for depression.

Psilocybin has already shown promise in treating depression in human trials, but scientists are still working to understand how it works.

A study published in the journal Neuron investigated whether psilocybin increases the number and density of dendritic spines—tiny arms through which neurons communicate.

Key Findings:

Rapid Effects: Within 24 hours of giving psilocybin to mice, researchers observed a significant increase in the number of dendritic spines in their frontal cortex. These dendritic spines are essential for neuron-to-neuron communication.

Enhanced Connections: There was not only a 10 percent increase in the number of neuronal connections, but these connections were also about 10 percent larger and stronger. This indicates that psilocybin doesn’t just increase the number of connections; it enhances their quality as well.

Lasting Impact: Remarkably, these improvements were still noticeable one month later. This suggests that a single dose of psilocybin can create enduring changes in brain structure, which could have long-term benefits for individuals suffering from depression.

Potential Benefits: The growth of new synapses could help rectify neurological deficits associated with depression, making it easier for the brain to encode new experiences.

This structural remodeling of the brain might allow for a change in mindset, providing new perspectives and coping mechanisms.

Additionally, the researchers noted an increase in excitatory neurotransmission in the mice, indicating that psilocybin might help reverse some of the brain activity deficits linked to depression.

Mice treated with psilocybin also showed better stress-coping behaviors, which suggests that the neural changes prompted by the compound could enhance resilience against stress.

Challenges and Further Research:

While these findings are promising, the hallucinogenic effects of psilocybin can be challenging for some individuals, making the treatment unsuitable for everyone.

To investigate whether the beneficial effects of psilocybin could be separated from its psychedelic effects, researchers used a compound called ketanserin.

This compound blocks the serotonin receptors that psilocybin binds to, preventing the alterations in consciousness typically caused by the drug.

Mice given ketanserin did not exhibit the usual head-twitching associated with psilocybin, indicating that they were not experiencing the psychedelic effects.

Despite the absence of these effects, the formation of new synapses within the frontal cortex still occurred.

This finding suggests that the antidepressant benefits of psilocybin might not depend on its psychedelic properties.

However, since mice and humans can respond differently to substances, more research is necessary to fully understand how psilocybin works and its potential as a depression treatment.


The discovery that a single dose of psilocybin can help regrow and strengthen neural connections lost in depression is a significant step forward.

It opens up new possibilities for treating depression, particularly for patients who have not responded to traditional therapies.

However, the hallucinogenic nature of psilocybin poses challenges, and more research is needed to explore how its benefits can be harnessed without the accompanying psychedelic effects.