“I am a completely different person then versus now. My PTSD will always live inside of me, but it’s no longer taking over my life,” says Sarah, one of the participants in MAPS’ MDMA trial.
Sarah endured a traumatic sexual assault that gave her painful flashbacks.
Over three MDMA therapy sessions, she was able to go back to the experience and fill in the gaps in her memory to fully process what had happened in a safe environment. In the final session, she confronted her attacker and was able to find forgiveness for them.
“I felt like I was given freedom from the trauma,” she explains.
“For the first time we find that psilocybin works differently from conventional antidepressants — making the brain more flexible and fluid, and less entrenched in the negative thinking patterns associated with depression,” says Imperial College London researcher David Nutt.
A new brain imaging study found that psilocybin increases brain network integration, whereas a common antidepressant, escitalopram, had no impact on brain network organization.
fMRI scans showed that psilocybin reduces activity in the default mode network (DMN), a region associated with introspection that’s often overactive in patients with depression, causing negative fixations about one’s self and the future.
The DMN became more connected with other regions like the salience network and the executive network, which are often impaired in patients with depression (as well as autism and OCD).
Essentially, this helps “open up” the brain, breaking rigid and restrictive patterns.