Analog of Psychedelics Reverses Some of the Neural Stress Damage

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Unfortunately, stress has become part of our daily lives. Even though our bodies have innate mechanisms for combating the negative effects of stress and maintaining physiological stability through the process called “allostasis,” chronic exposure to stress may lead to an overload of the body’s restoring capacity. In turn, it leads to damage of various cells and biological processes, particularly to neurons and neural processes. Such deterioration results in higher anxiety and aggression levels, diminished sensory processing, weakened decision-making, and cognitive flexibility.

There aren’t many reliably efficient remedies for stress-induced neural damage, but one class of drugs that shows promise is psychedelics. There is evidence that compounds such as LSD, DMT, psilocybin, and mescaline can have therapeutic value in combating mental illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and others. The obvious drawback of issuing psychedelics to patients is their hallucinogenic potential. But a group of researchers from UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, and Stanford, led by Dr. Ju Lu, has conducted a study looking at the effects of non-hallucinogenic analog of psychedelic 5-MeO-DMT, called tabernanthalog (TBG).

During their studies, they subjected mice to a 7-day unpredictable mild stress course, after which a group of mice received a dose of TBG. Scientists then performed both behavioral and brain imaging tests. The results showed that mice treated with TBG experienced reduced anxiety levels, improved sensory processing, and cognitive flexibility, as well as enhanced neuron regeneration. In many instances, the results were at the level of or close to the results of the control group that wasn’t subjected to stress.

Even though the results showed promise, further full human studies are required before this class of drugs is accepted as a treatment for stress-related damage.

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