The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders


After a pause of nearly 40 years in research into the effects of psychedelic drugs, recent advances in our understanding of the neurobiology of psychedelics, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin and ketamine have led to renewed interest in the clinical potential of psychedelics in the treatment of various psychiatric disorders. Recent behavioural and neuroimaging data show that psychedelics modulate neural circuits that have been implicated in mood and affective disorders, and can reduce the clinical symptoms of these disorders. These findings raise the possibility that research into psychedelics might identify novel therapeutic mechanisms and approaches that are based on glutamate-driven neuroplasticity.

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Figure 1: Activation of the prefrontal network and glutamate release by psychedelics.
Figure 2: Brain activity patterns in psychedelic-induced states of consciousness.


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The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Swiss Neuromatrix Foundation (to F.X.V. and M.K.), and of the Heffter Research Institute (to F.X.V.). The authors thank D. Nichols for critical comments on the manuscript.

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Vollenweider, F., Kometer, M. The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders. Nat Rev Neurosci 11, 642–651 (2010).

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