Psychedelic Research Findings Revealed at MAPS Psychedelic Science 2023 - Part 2

Psychedelic Research Findings Revealed at MAPS Psychedelic Science 2023 - Part 2

The  2023 MAPS Psychedelic Science conference in Denver brought together hundreds of experts and enthusiasts to share their latest insights. Fascinated by the findings, we created a two-part series covering everything you need to know about the latest developments. 

Our first Psychedelic Science recap included cutting-edge research into microdosing, psilocybin therapies for depression, and diverse alkaloids across magic mushroom strains. Part two covers ketamine research, ayahuasca studies, and the latest on psychedelics for brain injuries and end-of-life anxiety. 

Let’s review. 

1. Ketamine and psychedelics share the same antidepressant effects as traditional medications, yet they work faster and last longer. 


“Antidepressant properties of ketamine and psychedelics: A common cellular pathway?”

Purpose & Methods 

Dr. Mark Rasenick and researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago wanted to compare ketamine and traditional psychedelics to common antidepressants by investigating their cellular pathways. 

Dr. Rasenick first found that many antidepressants increase the movement of the G protein called Gs alpha, or Gsa, along the cell membrane. Previous research has demonstrated that antidepressant drugs collect gradually in cholesterol-rich membrane structures called “lipid rafts.” The team hypothesized that increased accumulation of Gsa in lipid rafts is a biomarker for depression, and Gsa relocating from those rafts is a biomarker for clinical responses to antidepressants. 

Dr. Rasenick’s team then compared antidepressants’ pharmacological action to psychedelics, like fluoxetine, ketamine, LSD, psilocin, and psilocybin. They analyzed cultured cells called “platelets” from 41 depressed subjects and 44 healthy controls. 

Summary of Findings 

  • Antidepressants, psychedelics, and ketamine all show the same antidepressant biosignature: Gsa moving from lipid rafts and increased signaling of GPCRs (G-protein-coupled receptors, the largest and most diverse group of membrane receptors). 
  • Like most antidepressants and ketamine, psychedelics treatment increased Gsa-activated cAMP response. (cAMP is an intracellular protein that regulates the expression of genes.)
  • Stimulated cAMP signaling response in platelets was significantly lower in subjects with depression than in the healthy controls. 
  • Psychedelics gave a prolonged (at least 24-hour) antidepressant biosignature.


Psychedelics and antidepressants have similar cellular signatures. However, they affect people in very different ways. 

Current depression medications are troublesome and often ineffective. Antidepressants can take approximately two months to work, and patients must continue taking these drugs for years. Weaning patients from these drugs can result in unpleasant symptoms ranging from flu-like feelings and persistent pain to Parkinson's-like conditions lasting for weeks. 

On the other hand, psychedelics like ketamine and LSD offer “rapid-acting” effects on an accelerated time scale, providing relief in as little as two hours after a single dose. 

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