Psilocybin with psychological support improves emotional face recognition in treatment-resistant depression

Psilocybin with psychological support improves emotional face recognition in treatment-resistant depression

Abstract

Rationale

Depressed patients robustly exhibit affective biases in emotional processing which are altered by SSRIs and predict clinical outcome.

Objectives

The objective of this study is to investigate whether psilocybin, recently shown to rapidly improve mood in treatment-resistant depression (TRD), alters patients’ emotional processing biases.

Methods

Seventeen patients with treatment-resistant depression completed a dynamic emotional face recognition task at baseline and 1 month later after two doses of psilocybin with psychological support. Sixteen controls completed the emotional recognition task over the same time frame but did not receive psilocybin.

Results

We found evidence for a group × time interaction on speed of emotion recognition (p = .035). At baseline, patients were slower at recognising facial emotions compared with controls (p < .001). After psilocybin, this difference was remediated (p = .208). Emotion recognition was faster at follow-up compared with baseline in patients (p = .004, d = .876) but not controls (p = .263, d = .302). In patients, this change was significantly correlated with a reduction in anhedonia over the same time period (r = .640, p = .010).

Conclusions

Psilocybin with psychological support appears to improve processing of emotional faces in treatment-resistant depression, and this correlates with reduced anhedonia. Placebo-controlled studies are warranted to follow up these preliminary findings.

Stroud, J. B., Freeman, T. P., Leech, R., Hindocha, C., Lawn, W., Nutt, D. J., … & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2017). Psilocybin with psychological support improves emotional face recognition in treatment-resistant depression. Psychopharmacology, 1-8. 10.1007/s00213-017-4754-y

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