Study Explores Psilocybin for Anorexia, Rigid Thought Patterns

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A new study examined the effects of psilocybin in an animal model for treating anorexia nervosa, showing that the compound improves body weight maintenance in female rats, facilitating what they call cognitive flexibility.

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is deadly—having one of the highest mortality rates of any known psychiatric disease. It killed people such as Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters, or a list of famous models who dealt with unrealistic body goals. It affects women more often but also 10-15% of people with AN are male.

The study, called “Psilocybin restrains activity-based anorexia in female rats by enhancing cognitive flexibility: contributions from 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptor mechanisms,”  was led by Dr. Claire Foldi of the Monash University Biomedicine Discovery Institute and published recently in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

People with eating disorders often suffer from symptoms like body dysmorphia and a poor self-image. These rigid thought patterns are difficult to overcome, and conventional medicine may not make much of a difference. Researchers observed a specific mechanism within the brain, allowing psilocybin to make “anorexic thinking” more pliable.

Meanwhile, serotonin reuptake inhibitors, aka antidepressants, are the leading treatment, however they are used off-label and don’t appear to improve clinical symptoms in underweight people with anorexia, Foldi said. “Cognitive inflexibility is a hallmark of the condition often arising before symptoms of anorexia nervosa are obvious, and persisting after weight recovery—making this symptom a primary target for therapeutic intervention,” Foldi told MSN News.

Researchers used young female rats in the study because they are particularly vulnerable to developing a particular ABA phenotype—a feature that is not fully understood but has been connected to the increased prevalence of AN in young women. 

To test the effects of psilocybin on cognitive flexibility, saline or 5-HTR antagonists were administered 30 minutes prior …

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Author: Benjamin M. Adams / High Times

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