A University of Lethbridge researcher has received national recognition for her work to understand how chronic gut inflation drives changes in brain structure and behavior.
Dr. Chelsea Matisz recently received a L’Oréal Canada For Women in Science Research Excellence Fellowship and one of three Royal Society of Canada Alice Wilson Awards.
She says she is excited at the therapeutic potential for her work as she now focuses on ways cannabinoids and psilocybin can help remediate chronic inflammation-induced changes in the brain.
“Research agencies are recognizing the importance of the gut-brain axis on all aspects of human health, whether it’s neurodegenerative diseases and gut diseases, as well as arthritis, aging, pregnancy — all of these kinds of things,” Matisz says. “Recognizing that understanding the gut-brain axis and its relationship to the microbiome can open a whole new world of therapeutic options for different kinds of diseases.”
She adds there has already been some work done with cannabinoids, which yielded interesting results. “Now, we’re really interested in psilocybin because of its ability to potentially ameliorate mood disorders that are so comorbid with gut disease. The evidence is very striking that a single dose of psilocybin can have huge therapeutic effects in people with refractive depression.”
Breaking the cycle for those who suffer from chronic inflammation is the key and she says the research has found those dealing with chronic inflammation experience functional and structural changes in their brains, such that the sickness morphs into more depression and anxiety, which in turn changes the way your body responds to stress, triggering more inflammation.
“That’s why we’re so excited about this work because of the prospect that psilocybin might be able to help remediate the structural and functional inflammation induced changes. I also think a lot of people are excited at the prospect of something that is quicker acting than traditional antidepressants. The evidence suggests that in conjunction with behavioral therapy, it can be really effective.”