B4090 - Early Psychedelic Use and Brain Structure in Young Adults - 13/06/2022

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Otto Simonsson | Karolinska Institutet (Sweden)
Charlotta Simonsson, Florian Kurth, Eileen Luders, Christian Gaser
Title of project: 
Early Psychedelic Use and Brain Structure in Young Adults
Proposal summary: 

There has been a dramatic reemergence of research into the therapeutic effects of psychedelic substances over the past decades (Nutt & Carhart-Harris, 2021). For example, a recent randomized controlled trial investigated the effects of psilocybin on depressive symptoms among patients with moderate-to-severe major depressive disorder. The results showed that the psilocybin condition was at least as effective as a leading antidepressant (escilatopram) in reducing depressive symptoms (Carhart-Harris et al., 2021). Although previous research has found associations between long-term use of ayahuasca (20 ayahuasca users versus 20 matched controls) and brain structure (Bouso et al., 2015), relatively little is known about the potential effects of other psychedelics such as psilocybin (‘magic mushrooms’) and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on brain structure, especially in adolescence. This research project therefore aims to investigate associations between early use of psychedelics (i.e., psilocybin, LSD) and brain structure.


Bouso, J. C., Palhano-Fontes, F., Rodríguez-Fornells, A., Ribeiro, S., Sanches, R., Crippa, J. A. S., ... & Riba, J. (2015). Long-term use of psychedelic drugs is associated with differences in brain structure and personality in humans. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 25(4), 483-492.

Carhart-Harris, R., Giribaldi, B., Watts, R., Baker-Jones, M., Murphy-Beiner, A., Murphy, R., ... & Nutt, D. J. (2021). Trial of psilocybin versus escitalopram for depression. New England Journal of Medicine, 384(15), 1402-1411.

Nutt, D., & Carhart-Harris, R. (2021). The current status of psychedelics in psychiatry. JAMA psychiatry, 78(2), 121-122.

Impact of research: 
The findings from this research project will help researchers understand if and how early psychedelic use impacts brain structure.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 7 June, 2022
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 13 June, 2022
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Medical imaging, Equipment - MRI