Psychedelics and Neural Plasticity: Therapeutic Implications

Steven F Grieco, Eero Castrén, Gitte M Knudsen, Alex C Kwan, David E Olson, Yi Zuo, Todd C Holmes, Xiangmin Xu


Psychedelic drugs have reemerged as tools to treat several brain disorders. Cultural attitudes toward them are changing, and scientists are once again investigating the neural mechanisms through which these drugs impact brain function. The significance of this research direction is reflected by recent work, including work presented by these authors at the 2022 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. As of 2022, there were hundreds of clinical trials recruiting participants for testing the therapeutic effects of psychedelics. Emerging evidence suggests that psychedelic drugs may exert some of their long-lasting therapeutic effects by inducing structural and functional neural plasticity. Herein, basic and clinical research attempting to elucidate the mechanisms of these compounds is showcased. Topics covered include psychedelic receptor binding sites, effects of psychedelics on gene expression, and on dendrites, and psychedelic effects on microcircuitry and brain-wide circuits. We describe unmet clinical needs and the current state of translation to the clinic for psychedelics, as well as other unanswered basic neuroscience questions addressable with future studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number45
Pages (from-to)8439-8449
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2022


  • Humans
  • Hallucinogens/pharmacology
  • Neurosciences
  • Brain
  • Neuronal Plasticity


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