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Browsing by Subject "Eating Disorders"

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  • Ruuska, Janika (2022)
    Individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa (AN) have one of the highest mortality rates of all psychiatric disorders, as a consequence of health complications that follows severe malnutrition. The impairments in cognitive flexibility, including an extreme focus on restricting food despite a rapid decline in body weight in AN, also plays an important role in the development of the disorder and has been suggested as a hallmark of AN. This cognitive inflexibility, common among many psychiatric disorders such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, is linked to alterations in serotonin (5-HT) signaling in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Reduced 5-HT2A receptor activity and potentially increased 5-HT1A receptor activity are evident in the mPFC in individuals with AN and may be linked to impaired cognitive flexibility, however, the mechanisms through which 5-HT and inflexibility interact in AN are not fully understood. A better understanding of this link could pave the way toward more effective pharmacological treatments for AN. Psilocybin, a psychedelic compound produced by so-called “magic” mushrooms, has a high affinity for several 5-HT receptor subtypes including 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors, and has now been empirically demonstrated to increase cognitive flexibility in individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD). In this study, we sought to understand how the development of pathological weight loss and/or psilocybin administration influenced the expression of RNA molecules of 5-HT2A and 5-HT1A receptors expression in the mPFC of rats. To this end, we used the activity-based anorexia (ABA) model, the only experimental model known to elicit voluntary reductions in food intake and voluntary hyperactivity that leads to rapid body weight loss in the majority of animals exposed to ABA conditions. Outcomes were compared against an age-matched control group that were not exposed to the ABA paradigm. Animals were administered psilocybin (1.5 mg/kg) or saline (control) and 4-10 days later brain tissue was collected for processing. Receptor expression was detected using a novel multiplex RNA fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) technology, RNAscope®. The main aim of this study was to examine changes in the expression of RNA molecules of 5-HT2A and 5-HT1A receptors in the mPFC elicited by ABA conditions and determine whether these were ameliorated by the administration of psilocybin. We found that animals exposed to ABA demonstrated a significant reduction of 5-HT2A receptors’ RNA levels in the mPFC, and that this was not influenced by psilocybin treatment. There have been reports from clinical trials that individuals with AN experience “less than expected” subjective effects from psilocybin, which may be explained by reduced expression of RNA molecules of 5-HT2A receptors in the mPFC, and is supported by our results in rats. Taken together, these results highlight a specific serotonergic mechanism that could underly the development of pathological weight loss and offers insight into possible issues with the therapeutic application of psilocybin for AN. Future studies will need to examine the effects of psilocybin during a more acute period following treatment to define these effects. Moreover, whether or not the reduced 5- HT2A receptors’ RNA level expression induced by ABA is restored with body weight recovery should be determined.