Despite its controversial reputation, researchers have confirmed that magic mushrooms have positive effects on the brain.
The active ingredient in these magic mushrooms, psilocybin, has antidepressant effects. It is present in over 200 species of mushrooms and produces a change in perception and euphoria that can last up to six hours.
Moreover, it is known to be safe when taken in moderation. However, it is not without side effects. Besides, it can cause negative side effects, like panic attacks and bad trips.
While the benefits of psilocybin outweigh any of its potential risks, there are some drawbacks. First, it may be harmful to those with certain diseases.
Secondly, it may lead to tolerance. People who have had a history of using psychedelics, such as LSD, may develop a cross-tolerance to psilocybin.
The active ingredient of magic mushrooms, psilocybin, affects the brain’s function by altering the communication between different areas of the central nervous system.
A study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface in 2014 found that psilocybin causes a dramatic change in brain patterns.
Dendrites are nerve cells that end in synapses and are the foundation for all brain activity. People with mental health conditions may experience atrophy in their dendrites, which reduces the brain’s activity.
Researchers found that psilocybin helps open depressed people’s brains, which could help them get better.
Although the effects of psilocybin on the brain are still unclear, magic mushrooms researchers from Yale University found that giving mice psilocybin increased the connections between neurons.
The researchers analyzed brain scans of 60 patients who were undergoing depression treatment. This research is one of several promising developments in the field of psychedelic therapies.
Improvements With Psilocybin Therapy
- Initial findings from two studies carried out at Imperial reported a reduction in measures of depression, but the mechanism underpinning how the treatment exerts these effects has been unclear.
- In the latest study, a team led by Imperial’s Centre for Psychedelic Research analysed fMRI scans of participants from these two trials, which included almost 60 participants: an open label trial in treatment.
- Resistant depression – where all participants received psilocybin; and a randomised control trial in more general depression that compared psilocybin with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram.
- All participants also received talking therapies with registered mental health professionals and brain scans were taken before, and then one day or three weeks after participants received psilocybin therapy.
- Both trials found improvements with psilocybin therapy, as measured by improved participant scores on clinical questionnaires. Analysis of the brain scans revealed altered communication or connectivity between brain regions.