magic-mushroomsPsychedelic mushrooms are notorious for producing dazzling hallucinations. But they can do a lot more than provide you with a trip. New research shows that they actually have long-last positive effects on the brain.

In fact, a mind-altering compound found in some 200 species of mushroom is already being explored as a potential medical treatment for depression and anxiety. People who consume these mushrooms consistently reported feeling more optimistic, euphoric, and clear-minded years after their experience. Imagine being able to receive a prescription for mushrooms!

An interested study sought to understand why it is the human brain experiences permanent transformation after mushrooms. According to a study published today in Human Brain Mapping, the mushroom compounds could be unlocking brain states usually only experienced when we dream, changes in activity that could help unlock permanent shifts in perspective.

The study examined brain activity in those who'd received injections of psilocybin, which is the active psychedelic compound within the mushrooms. Despite a long history of mushroom use in spiritual practice, this was the first real study done to investigating the biological changes that occurred during and after a psilocybin trip.

According to Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, a post-doctoral researcher in neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London and co-author of the study, the 15 participants were found to have increased brain function in areas associated with emotion and memory after receiving their injections. The effect was strikingly similar to a brain in a deep dream sleep state.

"You're seeing these areas getting louder, and more active," he said. "It's like someone's turned up the volume there, in these regions that are considered part of an emotional system in the brain. When you look at a brain during dream sleep, you see the same hyperactive emotion centers."

The brain may literally be slipping into these dream states while the user of the substance is still awake.

Areas of the brain involved in high-order thinking and refined cognitive operations were less active during the trip. "These are the most recent parts of our brain, in an evolutionary sense," Carhart-Harris said. "And we see them getting quieter and less organized."












This dampening of one area and amplification of another could explain the "mind-broadening" sensation of psychedelic drugs, he said. Areas of the brain that would normally keep our mind from expanding become quieter and allow for transcendental experiences to occur effortlessly.

Our egoic self and our personality are also quieted by these trips. Carhart-Harris believes that the drugs may unlock emotion while "basically killing the ego," allowing users to become more open-minded and universal in their thinking.

It's still not clear why such effects can have more profound long-term effects on the brain than our nightly dreams. Perhaps it is because the mind values waking state consciousness more than it does dream state consciousness. Regardless of the reason, Carhart-Harris hopes to see more of these compounds being used in modern medicine. "The way we treat psychological illnesses now is to dampen things," he said. "We dampen anxiety, dampen ones emotional range in the hope of curing depression, taking the sting out of what one feels."

But some patients seem to benefit from having their emotions "unlocked" instead. "It would really suit the style of psychotherapy where we engage in a patient's history and hang-ups," Carhart-Harris said. "Instead of putting a bandage over the exposed wound, we'd be essentially loosening their minds—promoting a permanent change in outlook."






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