Screening the effects of Psilocybin on complex behavior in worms

Author Name(s)

Alyssa Garbarino Leighton Ledesma, Maria Carillo, Nina Scalise, Chase Khedmatgozar, Chase Baker and Gareth Harris

Faculty Advisor(s)

Gareth Harris


Neuro-pharmacological agents and their actions have been an intensive area of research in relation to treatment of neurological disorders and understanding human behavior. Both medically prescribed and recreationally used chemical compounds can have profound short and long-term effects on the neuro mechanisms in mammals, influencing decision making and overall mood. Despite the use of drug therapies targeted at the neurological mechanisms of various diseases, understanding of the mechanisms underlying these diseases and the exact targets of these pharmacological agents are still not clear. There are multiple known compounds previously classed as recreationally used drugs that are now being identified as potential avenues to treat various neurological diseases. We use the invertebrate nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, to investigate the effects of a compound identified in a variety of mushrooms, known as psilocybin. We have begun to analyze the effects of this compound on worm behavior in hopes to further characterize the brain targets of psilocybin, and understand how psilocybin may be a brain targeting therapeutic in various neurological disorders. Interestingly, we have found that psilocybin effects multiple behaviors, including worm locomotion and egg laying; this provides an avenue to map the nervous system targets of psilocybin and observe how C.elegans behaviors are affected by Psilocybin. With many of the worm genes sharing significant conservation with the human system, we believe this characterization of the molecular mechanisms that are targeted by psilocybin will provide insight into how psilocybin influences the brain. This comes at a time when psilocybin has been more importantly shown to be a therapy for treatment resistant depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and PTSD.



2 thoughts on “Screening the effects of Psilocybin on complex behavior in worms”

  1. Antonio Sepulveda

    This is very interesting especially for the treat meant of PTSD, too many veterans commit suicide every day and the department of Veteran Affairs’ only solution is drugs like Seroquel a anti-psychotic that makes the veteran numb emotionally and puts pressure on their intimate relationships.

  2. You did a great job of explaining to a general audience why worms are an ideal candidate for this type of research and why it is relevant to human behavior. The methods and results were particularly clear. I also appreciate that you are venturing out to study a drug that has been sidelined for a very long time, but may be a very safe and effective alternative to others currently in use.

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