Tripping on magic mushrooms may actually free the mind, a new study says. The compounds in the (illegal) mushrooms change the way the brain works.
New research suggests that psilocybin, the main psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, sprouts new links across previously disconnected brain regions, temporarily altering the brain’s entire organizational framework.
These new connections are likely what allow users to experience things like seeing sounds or hearing colors. And they could also be responsible for giving magic mushrooms some of their antidepressant qualities.
When researchers compared the brains of people who had received IV injections of psilocybin with those of people given a placebo, they found that the drug changed how information was carried across the brain. (Subjects received 2 milligrams of psilocybin; the dose and concentration of the chemical in actual mushrooms — which are eaten, not injected — varies.) Typically, brain activity follows specific neural networks. But in the people given psilocybin injections, cross-brain activity seemed more erratic, as if freed from its normal framework.
When the researchers looked more closely, however, they noticed that the sparks of activity across the brains of their drugged volunteers wasn’t as chaotic as it seemed.
Instead, the activity formed distinct patterns, or cycles.
“The brain does not simply become a random system after psilocybin injection,” the researchers wrote, “but instead retains some organizational features, albeit different from the normal state.”
Picture the information in your brain being shared across an interconnected and heavily-trafficked system of highways. In that example, psilocybin isn’t removing the highways. Instead, it’s simply building new ones.
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