Tripping On Mushrooms Frees The Mind, Study Says

By Brent McCluskey 10/31/14

Just two milligrams of psilocybin can create new neural pathways that increase organized cross-brain activity.

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Being under the influence of magic mushrooms does more than just alter one’s perception. The psychoactive substance inside shrooms also helps the brain create new neural connections and free the mind, according to a new study.

In the study, which was published in the Journal of The Royal Society Interface, researchers examined the brains of participants who had been intravenously injected with two milligrams of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. While at first the neural activity appeared chaotic, closer inspection revealed the drug had created new neural pathways that allowed for an increase in organized cross-brain activity. 

“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.”

These “different” organizational features are what give psilocybin users the ability to experience different forms of synesthesia, such as smelling colors or tasting sounds. Normally, those parts of the brain don’t talk to each other, but when under the influence of magic mushrooms, the lines of communication are fully open.

This ability for the brain to forgo old connections in lieu of new ones helps explain earlier findings that psilocybin reduces symptoms of depression. David Nutt, a neuroscientist at Imperial College London, said that the psychoactive drug provides intense relief for depressed individuals by aiding their brains in creating new connections. “People who get into depressive thinking, their brains are overconnected,” said Nutt.

Nick Fernandez, a former cancer patient who took psilocybin during a New York University study, said he experienced similar results. “For the first time in my life, I felt like there was…a force greater than myself,” he said. “Something inside me snapped and I experienced a…shift that made me realize all my anxieties, defenses and insecurities weren’t something to worry about.”

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Brent McCluskey is a Social Media Editor at International Business Times as well as a Jedi with Sith tendencies.  He is also a reader of books, slayer of dragons, and level 80 mage.

“Yeah, I have a broad skill set. If I had to pick between being a Divergent or a wizard, I'd pick a wizard.”  His wizardness can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.