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Merima Šabanović

MSc, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Long-term effects of psychedelic drugs on structural and behavioural plasticity

Plasticity describes changes in the nervous system that result from experience and can occur at
various levels of organisation within the brain. It is hypothesized that psychedelic drugs induce
profound plasticity changes at cellular, structural and functional levels, supporting outcomes of
psychotherapy and aiding lasting remission. They, therefore, offer a unique opportunity to study
heightened plasticity as a potential neural prerequisite of cognitive and behavioural flexibility.

I aim to describe what are the long-term structural and behavioural plasticity changes resulting from psychedelic drugs and to determine if drug-state interaction would determine the quality of on- and off-drug experience. My approach combines behavioural investigations of the after-effects of psychedelics on cognitive flexibility and ex vivo MRI tests of grey matter structural changes in the weeks after psychedelic treatment in the mouse model. These studies will elucidate whether the psychedelic-induced structural and functional changes persist long-term and if they can help explain the lasting behavioural changes observed in human studies.