by Amie Moses
Psilocybin (the active chemical in “magic mushrooms”) is, well, truly “magical.” I have discussed the benefits of psilocybin, as well as other psychedelics in some of my previous articles*, but it seems that researchers and medical professionals are discovering more and more exciting information on the topic all the time. More recently, scientists have discovered that psilocybin can actually change the way that the brain functions both short-term and long-term and it can even cause the brain to grow new cells. This helps to explain some of the anti-depressant effects and the lasting personality changes that can occur with the use of psilocybin, as I have mentioned before. More importantly, this new research can have substantial benefits on the future of PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and substance abuse treatment and prevention, just to name a few.
Organizations such as MAPS and the Beckley Foundation have been pushing for more psychedelic drug research through the years and this research, as well as others, isn’t going unnoticed. Research is providing fascinating details on how psychedelic substances influence our brain’s activity. For instance, it appears that psilocybin alters the brain by changing the way different parts of the brain communicate with each other. This is quite exciting news as previous research pointed to the fact that psilocybin “turned off” or decreased activity in parts of the brain. It seems that, in fact, the brain is just re-wired for a period of time instead. The normal organizational structure of the brain is actually temporarily changed by allowing parts of the brain that don’t normally communicate to interact with each other.
Paul Expert, a co-author of a recent study stated that, “Psilocybin dramatically transformed the participants’ brain organization. With the drug, normally unconnected brain regions showed brain activity that was synchronized tightly in time.” Even more interesting is the fact that this “hyperconnected” communication appears to be very stable and organized and not erratic in nature. This, also, helps to explain the phenomenon of synesthesia, a sensory state that some psilocybin users report, such as seeing sounds, assigning colors to certain numbers, seeing smells, etc. Once the drug wears off, the organizational structure of the brain returns to normal. This research could offer even more potential advances in overcoming depression and substance abuse issues by manipulating the brain into re-wiring or altering moods and behaviors.
In research conducted by Dr. Juan R. Sanchez-Ramos at the University of Florida, mice were able to regrow brain cells in damaged areas of the brain and learn to overcome fear. It appears that psilocybin binds to receptors that stimulate growth and healing. In his research, Dr. Sanchez-Ramos trained mice to associate certain noises with electro shocks. Once some of these mice were given psilocybin, they were able to stop fearing the noise and overcome the conditioned fear response that was taught to them. Dr. Sanchez-Ramos believes that these findings can offer potential benefits in the future treatment of those suffering from PTSD. It stands to reason that this information could, one day, offer some potential and profound advances towards learning/memory improvement and Alzheimer’s treatment/preventionas well.
While more research still needs to be done, psilocybin is showing promising results every day. We have come so far already in proving that these “illegal” substances do, in fact, have a place in the medical community and lives of many people who could greatly benefit from a psychedelic “trip.” Yet, we have only just begun. Be well!