The role of oxytocin system in psilocybin
There’s an increasing interest in the potential benefits of carefully controlled studies with psychedelics for anxiety, depression and substance-use disorder. Despite the promising results in human participants, there have been few previous animal studies of the effects of psilocybin in animal models of alcohol abuse, so further work is required to understand the effect of psilocybin on alcohol use and the brain regions involved. We will be using a behavioural paradigm that assesses binge-drinking to study the effects of psilocybin on various neuronal populations in the brain.
We are also interested in whether psilocybin activates the oxytocin system in the brain, given that several recent studies in healthy human volunteers have observed increased plasma levels of oxytocin after psilocybin administration. Oxytocin is well-known as a hormone and neuropeptide that can result in strong feelings of empathy, connectedness, willingness to cooperate and prosocial tendencies. It is likely that oxytocin receptor-expressing neurons are activated after psilocybin administration.