Prof Nutt's Nuggets! Part Three.

12 December 2013

Interview with

Professor David Nutt, Imperial College London

We close the show by hearing again from Professor Nutt on his remaining top 2 neuroscience nuggets for 2013.

David -   And then the fourth one is the recent Nobel Prizes for discovering neuronal transport mechanisms and vesicle production.  Basically the synaptic machinery.  These synapses determine how brains really work, the key element in terms of brain communication.  So, credit to those American scientists who really pulled that apart.

The fifth one I'm afraid is a little bit personal but I'm very proud of a study we did just published in the journal of Neuroscience which I think is the first study ever to show you could determine in a human brain the sight of action of a drug on a particular neuronal path using the fast temporal resolution of magnetoencephalography MEG, we showed that the layer 5 cortical pyramidal cells were the target of the psychedelic drug, psilocybin.

We can explain its interesting actions to produce sensory distortion and alterations in perception and hallucinations through its disruption of those neurons and the cortical microcircuit.  We think that's a real world first and we hope you agree.

And the reason we're interested in psilocybin is not simply because we're interested in the psychedelic states and how that drug changes consciousness.  But we're interested in why there are so many 5HT2A receptors in the brain which is the target receptor of this drug.

The layer five pyramidal cells which are the cells which essentially receive what we call top down signalling for prefrontal cortex into other parts of the cortex.  Crick and Conk, but 8 years ago, thought that the layer 5 pyramidal cells with the core of consciousness.  In way, we've shown them that from the first time by perturbing them with psilocybin that you were able to disrupt consciousness. So, I think we proved the Crick and Conk theory of consciousness.  Psilocybin is particularly interesting drug because not only does it do that by producing a sort form disruption of that neuronal system but it also seems to - in some people to create a sense of well-being and benefit.  We're in the process now of trying to develop, to explore its potentially utility as a treatment for depression because we think in depression, neural circuits gets over engaged particularly with negativeruminations.  We maybe be able to disrupt that with drugs like psilocybin which is an effect psilocybin is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.  So, there's quite a lot of commentary on the web now, people are using these mushrooms to treat mental disorders such depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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