Psychedelic-inspired approaches for treating neurodegenerative disorders

J Neurochem. 2022 Jul;162(1):109-127. doi: 10.1111/jnc.15544. Epub 2021 Dec 5.


Psychedelics are increasingly being recognized for their potential to treat a wide range of brain disorders including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorder. Their broad therapeutic potential might result from an ability to rescue cortical atrophy common to many neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases by impacting neurotrophic factor gene expression, activating neuronal growth and survival mechanisms, and modulating the immune system. While the therapeutic potential of psychedelics has not yet been extended to neurodegenerative disorders, we provide evidence suggesting that approaches based on psychedelic science might prove useful for treating these diseases. The primary target of psychedelics, the 5-HT2A receptor, plays key roles in cortical neuron health and is dysregulated in Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, evidence suggests that psychedelics and related compounds could prove useful for treating the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). While more research is needed to probe the effects of psychedelics in models of neurodegenerative diseases, the robust effects of these compounds on structural and functional neuroplasticity and inflammation clearly warrant further investigation.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; BPSD; ayahuasca; frontotemporal dementia; neurodegeneration; neuroplasticity; psilocybin; psychedelic; psychoplastogen.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Hallucinogens* / pharmacology
  • Hallucinogens* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Substance-Related Disorders*


  • Hallucinogens