This between-subjects study (n=33) investigated whether psilocybin alters emotional processing biases in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) when compared to healthy controls without TRD or psilocybin use. Two sessions of psilocybin with psychological support did improve the processing of emotional faces in treatment-resistant depression and this correlated with reduced anhedonia.
“Rationale: Depressed patients robustly exhibit affective biases in emotional processing which are altered by SSRIs and predict clinical outcome.
Objectives: The objective of this study is to investigate whether psilocybin, recently shown to rapidly improve mood in treatment-resistant depression (TRD), alters patients’ emotional processing biases.
Methods: Seventeen patients with treatment-resistant depression completed a dynamic emotional face recognition task at baseline and 1 month later after two doses of psilocybin with psychological support. Sixteen controls completed the emotional recognition task over the same time frame but did not receive psilocybin.
Results: We found evidence for a group × time interaction on speed of emotion recognition (p = .035). At baseline, patients were slower at recognising facial emotions compared with controls (p < .001). After psilocybin, this difference was remediated (p = .208). Emotion recognition was faster at follow-up compared with baseline in patients (p = .004, d = .876) but not controls (p = .263, d = .302). In patients, this change was significantly correlated with a reduction in anhedonia over the same time period (r = .640, p = .010).
Conclusions: Psilocybin with psychological support appears to improve processing of emotional faces in treatment-resistant depression, and this correlates with reduced anhedonia. Placebo-controlled studies are warranted to follow up these preliminary findings.”
Authors: Jack B. Stroud, Tom P. Freeman, Robert Leech, Chandni Hindocha, Will Lawn, David J. Nutt, H. Valerie Curran & Robin L. Carhart-Harris
This study builds on the work of Carhart-Harris and colleagues (2016).
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Psilocybin with psychological support improves emotional face recognition in treatment-resistant depression
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October 30, 2017
Depression Treatment-Resistant Depression
Authors associated with this publication with profiles on BlossomRobin Carhart-Harris
Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris is the Founding Director of the Neuroscape Psychedelics Division at UCSF. Previously he led the Psychedelic group at Imperial College London.
David John Nutt is a great advocate for looking at drugs and their harm objectively and scientifically. This got him dismissed as ACMD (Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs) chairman.
Institutes associated with this publicationImperial College London
The Centre for Psychedelic Research studies the action (in the brain) and clinical use of psychedelics, with a focus on depression.
The psychedelics given at which dose and how many timesPsilocybin 10 - 25
mg | 2x
Linked Research Papers
Notable research papers that build on or are influenced by this paperPsilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: an open-label feasibility study
This is the first modern study (n=12) on psilocybin and its effects on treatment-resistant depression. It shows that two sessions with psilocybin (10mg and 25mg) in combination with psychological support can reduce depressive symptoms over periods of one week to three months after treatment. Psilocybin was well tolerated by all of the patients, and no serious or unexpected adverse events occurred.