Psychedelics Can Unlock Learning Windows in the Brain
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine showed in a new study (on mice) that psychedelics share a common ability to reopen such critical periods, but differ in the length of time the critical period is open—from two days to four weeks with a single dose. Critical periods have been demonstrated to perform such functions as help birds learn to sing and help humans learn a new language, relearn motor skills after a stroke and establish dominance of one eye over the other eye. Researchers demonstrated that multiple compounds - including ibogaine, ketamine, LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin - can reopen the “critical periods” of brain development in mice, making them more receptive to learning from their environment. The length of these reopened critical periods varies depending on the psychedelic drug used, ranging from 48 hours with ketamine to four weeks with ibogaine. “There is a window of time when the mammalian brain is far more susceptible and open to learning from the environment,” says Gül Dölen, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “This window will close at some point, and then, the brain becomes much less open to new learning.” The scientists say their results suggest these drugs - some would say medicines - have the potential to treat a wider range of conditions, such as stroke and deafness, beyond those in current studies of the drugs, such as depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.