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What Impact Does Ketamine Have on the Brain?

As an integrative psychiatrist, I have witnessed the transformative power of ketamine therapy in treating various mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. Unlike traditional psychiatric medications, ketamine works through unique mechanisms in the brain to provide rapid and lasting relief.

In this blog post, we will explore what ketamine does to your brain, focusing on the default mode network (DMN), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neuroplasticity, and the role of glutamate.

Ketamine and the Default Mode Network (DMN)

The default mode network (DMN) is a group of interconnected brain regions that are active when the mind is at rest or engaged in self-referential thinking. Overactivity of the DMN has been implicated in various mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety.

Ketamine has been found to temporarily "reset" the DMN, allowing for increased connectivity between brain regions that are usually segregated (Carhart-Harris et al., 2016). This disruption of the DMN's overactivity leads to a reorganization of neural networks and enhanced communication between different areas of the brain.

Interestingly, other psychedelic medicines, such as psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) and LSD, have also been observed to induce similar effects on the DMN and promote increased brain connectivity (Carhart-Harris et al., 2017; Preller et al., 2019). This shared ability to modulate the DMN and enhance brain network connectivity is thought to contribute to the therapeutic potential of these substances in treating various mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD, by facilitating profound shifts in perspective, self-awareness, and emotional processing.

This change in brain connectivity can lead to profound shifts in perspective, self-awareness, and emotional processing, contributing to the therapeutic benefits of ketamine.

BDNF, Neuroplasticity, and Ketamine

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