New study to look at what is happening in your brain under the influence of psychedelic drugs

It is well known that ingesting psilocybin (magic mushrooms) will induce profound changes in consciousness and perception – but exactly what is happening inside the brain is the focus of a new trial at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University.

Delving into how your consciousness is altered will see researchers combine functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG) scans from healthy adult brains before and after a dose of psilocybin and also assess the impact of contextual factors like music and meditation.

The PSIConnect trial will incorporate 60 healthy adults split into two equal groups, with one group completing eight weeks of online group meditation prior to their scans and the other group with no meditation at all, helping researchers determine what effects meditation may have on the brain and if the psychedelic experiences differ between the two groups as a result.

This trial will be conducted at the Monash Biomedical Imaging and BrainPark facilities at the university’s Clayton campus.

Associate Professor Adeel Razi from the Monash Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health says the trial will help build on the growing evidence base indicating that psychedelic drugs can be used to treat a variety of mental health conditions.

“This is the first psychedelic trial in Australia involving healthy participants,” Associate Professor Razi said.

“Using advanced brain imaging to measure how various parts of the brain communicate with each other to give us conscious experience, both before and during treatment, will not only further our understanding of the neuroscience of consciousness but will also inform the safety and efficacy of future clinical treatments.”

The trial is the latest example of Monash University’s growing focus on psychedelic research. The University recently launched the Neuromedicines Discovery Centre, a multidisciplinary initiative that aims to explore psychedelic and related treatments, and a number of labs across the University are actively establishing psychedelic projects, including studies within preclinical, clinical, and basic science, as well as sociological and ethical investigations.

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System highlighted the severity of the mental health crisis and the lack of new and effective treatments. In March 2021, the federal government committed $15 million to explore the use of psychedelics to augment and enable psychotherapy to be more effective.

For more information on the PSIConnect trial click here.

Read more on this trial and Professor Razi in Monash Lens.

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