Medical experts in their new research have found the important benefits which psychedelics can bring to brain development by opening “critical periods”, which may help healthcare experts to treat a range of neurological diseases, according to a report by the Independent.
The critical periods in the brain are the parts helping mammals to become “sensitive to signals from their surroundings”.
Previous studies show that these critical periods of brain development help birds to learn to sing, and humans to learn a new language, or relearn motor skills after a stroke, according to the research published in the journal Nature.
The findings of the study revealed that psychedelic drugs are linked by their common ability to reopen such “critical periods”.
“There is a window of time when the mammalian brain is far more susceptible and open to learning from the environment. This window will close at some point, and then, the brain becomes much less open to new learning,” study co-author Gül Dölen said.
In a previous finding, researchers noted that MDMA psychedelic drugs can open a critical period in mice, leading scientists to conclude that this drug paves the way for “opening the critical period in the brain”.
However, the new study amazed them as they found that drugs without MDMA’s prosocial elements could also lead to the opening of critical periods.
According to researchers, the results including those from Johns Hopkins University in the US, point to the potential of psychedelics in treating a wider range of conditions, including stroke and deafness, beyond the beneficial effects of such drugs in treating depression, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Scientists observed the behaviour of mice to understand how they learn from their surroundings.
In this experiment, mice were trained to develop a link between a social environment and another one by being alone.
Scientists observed that if the critical period opened in the adult mice, it would enable them to learn the value of a social environment — a behaviour that is normally learned in young mice.
Scientists said: “The critical period stayed open in mice given the drug ketamine for 48 hours while with psilocybin, the state lasted two weeks.”
“The open state of the critical period may be an opportunity for a post-treatment integration period to maintain the learning state,” Dr Dolen said.
“Too often, after having a procedure or treatment, people go back to their chaotic, busy lives that can be overwhelming. Clinicians may want to consider the time period after a psychedelic drug dose as a time to heal and learn, much like we do for open heart surgery,” she explained.