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expert reaction to study on the mechanisms of action of psychedelics’ antidepressant effects

A study published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that psychedelics promote plasticity by directly binding to BDNF receptor TrkB.


Dr James Rucker, Consultant Psychiatrist & Senior Clinical Lecturer at King’s College London.

“This study offers an intriguing new insight into the molecular mechanism of action of psychedelics, which accumulating clinical evidence suggests have antidepressant properties. The authors have shown interesting evidence in cultured neurons and rodents that the antidepressant effect and subjective effect may, in fact, be mediated by separate mechanisms. If confirmed, this may allow the development of new antidepressants that target the antidepressant mechanism without the disorientating subjective effects of classical psychedelics that currently limit their use to carefully controlled medical settings. However, this work needs to be confirmed by replication and the findings here may not reflect the actual mechanisms underpinning antidepressant response in the human brain. It is likely that the overall mechanism of action of psychedelics and antidepressants includes many other mechanisms not analysed here.”



‘Psychedelics promote plasticity by directly binding to BDNF receptor TrkB’ by Rafael Moliner et al. was published in Nature Neuroscience at 16:00 UK time on Monday 5th June.




Declared interests

Dr James Rucker:

  1. Paid advisory boards for Clerkenwell Health (Past), Beckley PsyTech (Past), Delica Therapeutics (Past)
  2. Paid articles for Janssen
  3. Assistance for attendance at conferences from Compass Pathways (past)
  4. Grant funding (received and managed by King’s College London) from Compass Pathfinder, Beckley PsyTech, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, National Institute for Health Research, Wellcome Trust, Biomedical Research Centre at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
  5. No shareholdings in pharmaceutical companies
  6. No shareholdings in companies developing psychedelics

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