Neuroplasticity and enduring change

Michaela White
Head of Care at Joyous
Michaela White

Neuroplasticity and enduring change

Low dose ketamine treatments have been found to create a window of neuroplasticity, leaving your mind flexible in a way that enhances the impact of therapy, meditation, and emotional processing without side effects such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, or emotional numbing.

How does ketamine improve neuroplasticity?

Ketamine affects the glutamate system. Glutamate is used in your brain for neurons to communicate. When people are under stress for a long time or depressed for a long time, they begin to lose connections. Ketamine opens a window of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity can be thought of as your brain's ability to heal by building new connections. Building new connections can lead to an improvement in mood, sleep, and overall outlook on life.

"Here’s a helpful metaphor. Picture a bunch of people trying to get into your house for a party. If you block all the doors, they’re not going to come in, but they will party in the street. In this metaphor, glutamate is the people and ketamine is the bouncer blocking the door to your house. Because they can’t get into your house, the glutamate is increased in the street, in this case, your brain.

But something else is happening when those glutamate bursts occur, something that researchers believe is one of the elements at the core of ketamine’s antidepressant effects: it facilitates neuronal growth.

Ketamine re-establishes and strengthens neural connections via dendrites — microscopic spine-like structures that send and receive information." (Macbride, 2021)

Broken neural connections is a likely cause of depression

The above explanation of the glutamate system and neuroplasticity builds on what we know about ketamine and brings the mechanisms by which ketamine treats depression into clearer focus. At the micro-level, we know that by blocking certain receptors, ketamine increases levels of glutamate in the brain. These increased levels may explain how ketamine helps repair dendrites and facilitate neuron growth, addressing one likely cause of depression.

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