An analog of psychedelics restores functional neural circuits disrupted by unpredictable stress

This animal study (n=76) tested the rescue effects of a single dose of the ibogaine-analog tabernanthalog (10 mg/kg) administered after mild exposure to unpredictable mild stress in mice and found that it restored deficits in dendritic spine structural dynamics, neuronal activities, and the bottom-up processing of novel contextual information.


Introduction: Psychological stress affects a wide spectrum of brain functions and poses risks for many mental disorders. However, effective therapeutics to alleviate or revert its deleterious effects are lacking. A recently synthesized psychedelic analog tabernanthalog (TBG) has demonstrated anti-addictive and antidepressant potential. Whether TBG can rescue stress-induced affective, sensory, and cognitive deficits, and how it may achieve such effects by modulating neural circuits, remain unknown.

Methods/Results: Here we show that in mice exposed to unpredictable mild stress (UMS), administration of a single dose of TBG decreases their anxiety level and rescues deficits in sensory processing as well as in cognitive flexibility. Post-stress TBG treatment promotes the regrowth of excitatory neuron dendritic spines lost during UMS, decreases the baseline neuronal activity, and enhances whisking-modulation of neuronal activity in the somatosensory cortex. Moreover, calcium imaging in head-fixed mice performing a whisker-dependent texture discrimination task shows that novel textures elicit responses from a greater proportion of neurons in the somatosensory cortex than do familiar textures. Such differential response is diminished by UMS and is restored by TBG.

Discussion: Together, our study reveals the effects of UMS on cortical neuronal circuit activity patterns and demonstrate that TBG combats the detrimental effects of stress by modulating basal and stimulusdependent neural activity in cortical networks.”

Authors: Ju Lu, Michelle Tjia, Brian Mullen, Bing Cao, Kacper Lukasiewicz, Sajita Shah-Morales, Sydney Weiser, Lindsay P. Cameron, David E. Olson, Lu Chen & Yi Zuo

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Randomized Animal Study