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UCSD Researchers Get Grant To Study Psychedelics On Phantom Pain

SAN DIEGO, CA — The Psychedelics and Health Research Initiative at UC San Diego obtained a $1.3 million grant from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation to fund a medical trial investigating the therapeutic potential of psilocybin in treating phantom limb ache, it was introduced Wednesday.

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound produced by many species of fungus, together with so-called “magic mushrooms.” Phantom limb ache is ache originating from components of the physique not current, resembling an amputated arm or leg. It is a type of neuropathic ache that truly originates within the spinal twine and brain

The grant will fund the primary randomized, placebo-controlled human medical trial inspecting the protection and efficacy of psilocybin in sufferers affected by continual phantom limb ache. The trial can be designed to discover the brain mechanisms concerned, together with attainable alterations in brain circuitry.

The trial is a part of the PHRI, whose mission is to check the potential of psilocybin and associated compounds in treating ache and selling therapeutic.

“The therapeutic potential of psilocybin is unique among pharmaceutical agents that are used as analgesics,” stated Dr. Timothy Furnish, a medical professor of anesthesiology at UCSD School of Medicine and a co- principal investigator within the trial.

“Most analgesic drugs are taken at least daily to treat the symptoms of chronic pain, but they do nothing to change the underlying pathology,” he stated. “Psilocybin has the potential to `reset’ altered cortical brain circuits associated with certain chronic pain conditions. This reset could result in a drug that works on an extended basis (days or weeks) or perhaps even constitutes a `cure.”‘

Research at UCSD on psychedelics started within the Seventies with the work of Mark Geyer, a professor of psychiatry and neurosciences emeritus and co-founder of the PHRI. Geyer performed primary analysis on the behavioral and neurobiological results of psychedelics at UCSD.

The PHRI has a briefer historical past, originating in 2016 with Albert Yu-Min Lin, a analysis scientist on the Jacobs School of Engineering and Qualcomm Institute, who lost his decrease proper leg in an off-road automobile accident. During recovery and rehabilitation, Lin skilled critical, recurrent phantom limb ache.

“The pain wasn’t subtle,” Lin stated. “It was like being in the heart of a trauma all of the time. It was all consuming, but coming from a part of the body that literally no longer existed. I was desperate. I felt like I was gasping for air in a pool, looking for relief.”

During recovery, Lin found the work of V.S. Ramachandran, a professor of psychology and neurosciences at UCSD, who had pioneered growth of a remedy for treating phantom limb ache. The therapy includes utilizing mirrors to create a reflective phantasm of the limb, tricking the brain into pondering motion has occurred with out ache or to create constructive visible suggestions of limb motion. For Lin, the remedy supplied ache reduction, however solely whereas the mirror was in place.

As a subject researcher and explorer for the National Geographic Society, Lin had traveled the world serving to develop applied sciences to help in archeological digs and comparable actions. He was conscious that different cultures used plant-based preparations to supply mind-altering, therapeutic results.
Lin procured some psilocybin, drove out to the desert, boiled it to create a tea and connected his leg mirror. He studied the phantasm, eliminated the mirror, studied the place his leg as soon as had been and repeated the sequence, repeatedly.

Within 45 minutes, he stated, there was reduction.

“The pain was gone. I did handstands. It was a profoundly spiritual moment,” Lin stated. “My mind had a map of my body and it was experiencing severe feedback issues, but it had to let go of that map through a sort of `state of ego death’ in which the psilocybin allowed the mind to reject the old map and create a new one. Now, I occasionally have a jolt of pain, but it’s mostly gone.”

But Lin additionally acknowledged that his expertise was anecdotal and singular, and that extra work was wanted to assist others in comparable ache and circumstances. In 2018, Lin, Furnish, Ramachandran and others revealed a paper in Neurocase describing their collaboration, and in 2019, one other account was revealed within the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine.

The World Health Organization estimates that there are greater than 40 million amputees on the earth, with as much as 80% experiencing phantom limb ache. Military veterans exhibit the best charges of amputation and continual phantom limb ache, in line with earlier research.

Thirty amputees affected by phantom ache will probably be enrolled within the three-year medical trial. Half of the individuals will obtain 25 milligrams of psilocybin on two events; the opposite half will obtain two doses of niacin.

Niacin was chosen because the placebo as a result of it mimics a number of the bodily sensations that topics could expertise after taking psilocybin, however doesn’t produce a “trip,” in line with Furnish. The trial will embrace a number of medical visits to evaluate ache and psychological functioning, together with magnetic resonance imaging.

City News Service