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Psilocybin microdosing may improve mental health by boosting stress resilience

A study from the University of Southern Denmark is shedding new light on the potential therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, the active compound found in psychedelic mushrooms. The researchers have found that “microdosing” psilocybin may have a beneficial effect on mental disorders.

Focus of the study 

The study explored the effects of psilocybin microdosing on rats, offering promising insights into its possible advantages for human mental health. 

Led by Professor Mikael Palner and PhD student Kat Kiilerich, the research focused on administering repeated low doses of psilocybin to rats, significantly lower than the amounts commonly used in therapeutic contexts. 

Self-medication technique 

Microdosing has recently gained traction as a popular self-medication technique. 

“Microdosing is a phenomenon popularized within performance culture, notably in areas like Silicon Valley, California, and has subsequently spread through stories and anecdotes on the internet as a form of self-medication for various challenges,” explained Professor Palner.

Psilocybin microdosing

The results of the study suggest that rats can tolerate repeated psilocybin microdosing without signs of anxiety, reduced pleasure (anhedonia), or altered locomotor activity. 

The low doses of psilocybin also increased the rats’ resilience to stress, reduced their compulsive behaviors, and notably enhanced connectivity to their brain’s thalamus region. This part of the brain plays a crucial role in decision-making and managing concerns.

“The change in connectivity to the thalamus may contribute to our enhanced resilience to stress factors and could explain why so many people report positive effects on their well-being from small doses of psychedelic mushrooms,” explained the researchers.

Innovative treatment approaches 

The findings offer a scientific foundation for the potential benefits of psilocybin microdosing as a therapeutic intervention. This opens avenues for further research and the development of innovative treatment approaches for various mental disorders.

“The increased anxiety and stress in society currently have placed a strong focus on microdosing, leading to a surge in the trade of mushrooms. Countries such as the Netherlands, Australia, the USA, and Canada have either legalized or are in the process of legalizing psilocybin for therapeutic treatment” said Professor Palner.

“It is, therefore, crucial that we understand the effects and side effects of these substances, which are already widely used by people around the world.”

Mental health and performance enhancement

Inspired by the surge in self-improvement practices in Silicon Valley, Professor Palner has dedicated years to researching the beneficial impacts of microdosing psychedelics on mental health and performance enhancement.

“Some books were published that popularized the concept of using small doses of psychedelics to address both mental issues and enhance performance. This motivated me to launch the project I’ve been devoted to for the past six years,” said Professor Palner.

“Now, we can determine the appropriate dosage in rats, enabling us to investigate the effects of microdosing, which could significantly advance our understanding of the brain and mental challenges. This benefits both the field of science and society at large.”

The study is published in the journal Nature – Molecular Psychiatry.

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