Magic Mushrooms May Hold Depression Key

By Valerie Tejeda 01/24/12

Scientists find that the active ingredient in 'shrooms affects the brain in a similar way to anti-depressants.

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Magic mushrooms may have more than
one remarkable property.
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British scientists are investigating the brains of people tripping on magic mushrooms in hopes of finding a better treatment for depression. Researchers working on two different studies have found that psilocybin—the active ingredient in magic mushrooms—suppresses activity in the same areas of the brain where anti-depressants work by reducing activity. The first study, published in the Proceedings of the national Academy of Sciences journal, infused psilocybin into the blood of 30 volunteers inside an MRI scanner. The volunteers reported a feeling of the "cogs being loosened" and an altered sense of self. In the second study, soon to be published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the volunteers reported that psilocybin enhanced their recollections of personal memories. "Psychedelics are thought of as 'mind-expanding' drugs so it has commonly been assumed that they work by increasing brain activity," says David Nutt of Imperial College London. "We're not saying go out there and eat magic mushrooms. But...this drug has such a fundamental impact on the brain that it's got to be meaningful—it's got to be telling us something about how the brain works. So we should be studying it and optimizing it if there's a therapeutic benefit."