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  • Writer's pictureMatthew McMurray

New publication on Psilocybin

The McMurray lab has just published their new findings on psilocybin's effects on decision-making in the journal Behavioural Brain Research. Congrats to all the folks who contributed to this important work. The full citation and abstract are listed below:

Roberts BF, Zylko AL, Waters CE, Crowder JD, Gibbons WJ, Sen AK, Jones JA, McMurray MS (2023) Effect of psilocybin on decision-making and motivation in the healthy rat. Behavioral Brain Research 440: 114262.


Psilocybin and its active metabolite psilocin are hallucinogenic serotonergic agonists with high affinity for several serotonin receptors. In addition to underlying the hallucinogenic effects of these compounds, serotonin receptor activation also has important effects on decision-making and goal-directed behaviors. The impact of psilocybin and psilocin on these cognitive systems, however, remains unclear. This study investigated the effects of psilocybin treatment on decision-making and motivation in healthy male and female rats. We compared probability and delay discounting performance of psilocybin treated (1mg/kg) to vehicle rats (n=10/sex/group), and further assessed motivation in each group using a progressive ratio task. We also confirmed drug action by assessing head twitch responses after psilocybin treatment (1mg/kg). Results from this study demonstrated that exposure to 1mg/kg psilocybin did not affect decision-making in the probability and delay discounting tasks and did not reduce response rates in the progressive ratio task. However, psilocybin treatment did cause the expected increase in head twitch responses in both male and female rats, demonstrating that the drug was delivered at a pharmacologically relevant dosage. Combined, these results suggest that psilocybin may not impair or improve decision-making and motivation. Considering recent interest in psilocybin as a potential fast-acting therapeutic for a variety of mental health disorders, our findings also suggest the therapeutic effects of this drug may not be mediated by changes to the brain systems underlying reward and decision-making. Finally, these results may have important implications regarding the relative safety of this compound, suggesting that widespread cognitive impairments may not be seen in subjects, even after chronic treatment.

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