At least in mice, scientists have found a drug that appears to produce the same effects on the brain as LSD.

Ailsa Chang is the host.

Drugs like magic mushrooms can act as powerful antidepressants, but they can also produce mind- bending side effects. Jon Hamilton reports on a drug that works in mice without the animals having to travel.

Anti-depressants act on the brain's dopamine system. So do other drugs. The effect can happen in hours instead of weeks. People with depression who take the active ingredient in magic mushrooms is the best evidence so far according to Brian Shoichet.

There are reports of people getting great results after just a few doses.

The results can last a year or more, according to one study. Medical supervision and a therapist are required for hallucinating drugs. It is impractical to treat millions of people with depression.

You don't need a guided tour for your trip if you take a molecule that the society wants you to take.

Shoichet and a group of researchers are looking for a molecule. They started with a virtual collection of drugs that could act on the brain. The scientists focused on two.

They had the best places to live. When they were given to a mouse, they got into the brain at high concentrations.

One of the drugs was found to relieve depression in mice. When placed in an uncomfortable situation like being dangled from its tail, a depressed mouse gives up quickly. The same mouse will continue to struggle if it is given a drug like Prozac. A member of the team says the molecule based on LSD had the same effect.

One day later, we discovered our compound had the same activity.

Hamilton wondered if the mice tripped. It seems that apparently not. The twitching of mice is caused by the drugs. The mice that got the compound were different.

I would say that we were surprised to see that they didn't do anything like that.

There is still a long way to go in studies of people. The approach points to a class of depression drugs that would have a huge advantage over products like Prozac and Zoloft.

The compound that we're excited about is basically one and done. The patients take a single dose.

David Olson of the University of California, Davis said that it was an optimistic view. He's skeptical that a single dose of these new compounds can eradicate depression.

David Olson thinks they take us a step closer to a cure.

People who haven't responded to existing antidepressants may be helped by drugs based on psychedelics. He says that they could be used in a therapy session.

Imagine a day when a patient could take one of these drugs at home and interact with their therapist through a virtual platform.

There is new research in the journal Nature.

Jon Hamilton is a reporter for NPR.

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