Researchers with a Government-issued license to try-out magic mushrooms may have just discovered what makes the "drug experience" such an important treatment avenue to explore.
The scientific team has found that the mind-altering substance, which contains psilocybin, can help treat conditions like depression by "rebooting" the brain – much like 'defragging' a computer.
As part of their research, the team of scientists from Imperial College London gave 19 patients with treatment-resistant depression small doses (10mg to 25mg) of psilocybin seven days apart.
Each one reported an immediate mood improvement that lasted up to five weeks, some describing it as a feeling of being "rebooted", the study states.
Subsequent brain scans showed that the drug had, in fact, re-set a central part of the neural circuits in the brain that are known to play a role in depression.
It also induced increased stability in another brain network previously linked to depression.
Lead author and head of psychedelic research Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris said: "We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin."
"Several of our patients described feeling 'reset' after the treatment and often used computer analogies."
"For example, one said he felt like his brain had been 'defragged' like a computer hard drive," he adds, "and another said he felt 'rebooted'."
Carhart-Harris, who became the first scientist in over 40 years to test LSD on humans in 2014, claims the drug may be giving patients the "kick start" they need to break out of their depressive state.
Despite the encouraging results, however, the researchers insist those with depression should not try and self-medicate with their own psychoactive drugs at home.
A new trial from the team that will test psilocybin against a leading antidepressant is set to take place early next year.
The "psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression" study is published in a Scientific journal on Nature.