As we all attempt to find our new normal after years of pandemic living, it’s evident that this will involve an immense societal need to focus on individual mental health. With nearly one in five adults living with a mental illness, finding innovative new approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention are crucial to improving the lives of millions of people. Investigators at the Mass General Research Institute are working to do just that.
This week, we talked to Sharmin Ghaznavi, MD, PhD, the Associate Director & Director of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics at Mass General Hospital, who is also an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
“I think after the pandemic we really are going to be facing an epidemic—if not pandemic—of worsening mental health,” says Dr. Ghaznavi. “The need for treatment options and a need to strengthen our systems of care is greater than it has ever been.”
“All of our (current) treatments work by inducing changes in the brain, by neuroplasticity. What we know is that in some patients with mental illnesses, there are lower levels of molecules that contribute to neuroplasticity—or the capacity of the brain to change in meaningful ways that correspond with changes in behavior.”
Could looking outside the traditional avenues of drug development help? That’s the goal of the Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics, which seeks to apply scientific rigor to the use of psychedelics as treatments for depression and other mental health disorders.