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Of Mice and Men: New Study Shows Psychedelic Therapy Helps Both Creatures Learn New Patterns

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

In July 2023, Psychologist Alison Gopnik published a new investigative article in her column, Mind & Matter, for The Wall Street Journal. Gopnik’s work “explores new discoveries in the science of human nature,” and this particular piece, titled “The New Promise of Psychedelics,” featured emerging research on mice showing how psychedelic drugs can open their brains to new possibilities and learning patterns.


The new study was published in Nature by neuroscientist Gul Dolen at Johns Hopkins, aiming to answer the question of just how psychedelics help treat mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The study was conducted on mice, who, like humans, seem to have innate phases or "critical periods," during which they’re particularly receptive to some types of learning and development. These windows of time gradually close as mice (and humans) age, leading to a decline in the brain's adaptability.


Psychedelics help the brain open up to new learning patterns

Ultimately, the study found that psychedelics, like those of DMA (Ecstasy), LSD, psilocybin, ketamine, and ibogaine, seem to play a role in returning a relatively rigid, developed adult brain into a more flexible, child-like brain with an open mindset for learning new habits.


While the chemicals in each type of psychedelic listed above have different chemical compounds and impacts on the brain, they seem to share this overall effect in the minds of mice and humans alike.


“The research suggests that psychedelics work by opening up the brain to new possibilities, allowing it to escape from old ruts, change and learn,” Gopnik writes in her article.


When studied, adult mice under the influence of psychedelics exhibited learning abilities reminiscent of their younger counterparts. The researchers tested these results compared to comparable use of cocaine and a control variable of saline, and didn’t find the same unique results.


Another interesting phenomenon noted in studies like this one was the ability for psychedelics to reopen the “visual critical period” in mice, offering older animals a chance to recover from visual impairments like lazy eye when treated with ketamine specifically.


This new research underscores how psychedelics operate by expanding the mind's potential for new experiences. Whether in mice or humans, this can provide an opportunity to break free from habitual patterns, such as addiction, and foster new learning patterns.

However, it's important to note that the drugs themselves don't decide the direction of brain changes or learning outcomes. The ultimate transformation, especially with emerging drugs such as ketamine, lies in our own choices to seek a healthier, happier life. This is why it’s key to undergo psychedelic therapy like ketamine infusion therapy under the supervision of healthcare professionals, and with a therapy regimen in mind. At Freedom Ketamine Treatment Centers, we always recommend our ketamine infusion therapy patients continue their regular courses of talk therapy, exercise, and holistic wellness techniques, in addition to infusions.


Studies like this one help prove the efficacy of once-discarded psychedelic therapy, an emerging field of medicine which provides hope to the millions of Americans suffering from mental health disorders. For more studies like this one, see our library of research here.


Ketamine infusion therapy can help open your mind for a healthier future


At Freedom Ketamine Treatment Centers, our team of Board-Certified Physicians uses ketamine infusion therapy to combat treatment-resistant depression, chronic anxiety, PTSD, and various mental health conditions.


Typically, a single infusion yields positive results for ~80% of our patients, which last anywhere from a few days up to 2 weeks. A series of 6 infusions can extend this effect from weeks to months, with booster infusions for sustained benefits.


We’ve been providing this cutting-edge care to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area since 2016, and proudly offer free consultations with our Doctors to help you decide whether this treatment option could be right for you.


With offices in Bethesda, Rockville, Columbia, Vienna, Reston, and Marshall, Freedom Ketamine Treatment Centers is here to support your healing journey. Visit us online or call our offices today to learn more about the life-changing infusion therapy we’re proud to provide.


The image used in this article is by Belinda Fewings.

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