After a psychedelic trip on magic mushrooms, people often describe the experience as mind-expanding, consciousness altering, emotionally insightful and even spiritually transcendent. Now, scientists have peered into the brains of people tripping on psilocybin — the active ingredient in mushrooms — and their results revealed a few surprises.
Instead of opening lines of communication between sensory-oriented regions of the brain, psilocybin appears to shut down activity in two key areas of the brain that regulate our sense of self and integrate our sense of awareness with our sense of the present.
The drug also decreases activity in something called the default mode network, which is believed to be involved in maintaining a balanced sense of consciousness and ego through self-reflection, though scientists still don’t entirely understand the network or agree about what it does.The more these brain areas were suppressed, the researchers report today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the more intense people reported their changes in perception to be.
Besides helping explain how magic mushrooms induce hallucinogenic adventures of the mind, the results suggest that, in controlled settings, psilocybin might be a useful tool for treating depression and other psychiatric problems
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