Prior studies have found that psychedelic substances can alter states of consciousness. However, until now it was unknown which receptors played a role in this change. New research conducted by a group of scientists from various institutions has demonstrated how a drug-induced change in an individual’s subjective awareness is formed in certain neurotransmitter receptor systems.
The team comprised of researchers from the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, the Broad Institute at Harvard/MIT, the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute and McGill University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.
For their study, the scientists collected more than 6,800 testimonials from individuals who had consumed various psychedelics. They then developed a machine learning strategy that would pick out words that were commonly used from the testimonials and relate those words to a range of 40 neurotransmitter receptor subtypes that may have induced them. This allowed the researchers to associate the experiences with regions in the brain where the receptors were mostly found.
The large data set also allowed the researchers to characterize various states of experiences with regions in the brain and a number of receptors, which supports the hypothesis that new hallucinogenic compounds can be designed to create different mental states. For instance, the study found that the feeling of being detached from one’s self, commonly known as ego-dissolution, was linked to 5-HT2A, the serotonin receptor. However, the D2 receptor, adrenergic receptors such as Beta-2 and Alpha-2A, and other serotonin receptors including 5-HT2B, 5-HT1A and 5-HT2C were also associated with ego-dissolution.
The researchers theorize that a drug that has been designed to target these receptors could be used to create this feeling in patients who physicians believe may benefit from the experience.
The lead author of the study, Professor Danilo Bzdok, stated that hallucinogens could very well help improve clinical care for various mental health conditions. He explained that the group’s research offered proof that it was possible to develop machine learning systems in the future that could accurately forecast the neurotransmitter receptor combinations that needed to be stimulated to bring on a particular state of conscious experience in any individual.
This research was funded in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and a grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health, as well as by the Brain Canada Foundation, through the Canada Brain Research Fund. In addition to this, the study was supported by Google, the CIFAR Artificial Intelligence Chairs program and the Healthy Brains Healthy Lives initiative. The study’s findings were published in the “Science Advances Journal.”
Plenty of R&D is being conducted in the psychedelics field, and we can expect to see new revelations about various compounds including psilocybin as companies such as Mydecine Innovations Group Inc. (NEO: MYCO) (OTC: MYCOF) (FSE: ONFA) make headway in their search for superior treatments for mental health disorders, among other indications.
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