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Do Magic Mushrooms Provide Light at the End of the Depression Tunnel?

Psychedelic Mushrooms and Depression?

In a throwback to the 60s, psychedelic mushrooms may give hope to depression sufferers, as 2 minor MRI brain imaging studies hint that psilocybin, the magic in mushrooms, affects our brains for good.

The first study, printed in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences had thirty healthy participants injected with psilocybin while under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to monitor the effect on their brain activity. This study revealed that psilocybin actually reduced brain activity in the brain’s “hub”, or important connectivity center areas.

The second study had only 10 healthy participants and revealed that psilocybin gave them enhanced their recall of memories and a greater sense of emotional well-being for up to fourteen days. The researchers are suggesting that psilocybin mat be an efficacious addition to psychotherapy. This study is from the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Mind-Expanding Mushroom?

A study from 2011 found that patients suffering anxiety that had just one dose of psilocybin had significantly lower depression scores over half a year afterward. The senior collaborator on both studies commented that psychedelics are generally said to be ‘mind-expanding’ and this has led to the false assumption that they boost brain activity, but surprisingly. But in truth it was found that psilocybin does just the reverse in brain areas that have the most connections with other areas. The hubs constrain our experience of the world and file it according to our innate patterns. Switching off these areas gives us the altered states so desired by the beat generation.

The study participants said they saw “geometric” patterns, and felt an altered sense of time and space, along with unusual sensory changes that go with a restricted flow of oxygen and blood to the brain’s posterior cingulated cortex and medial prefrontal cortex. Brain mapping informs us that this area of our brains plays a part in self-awareness and identity. Research indicates that it is especially active in people suffering from depression. Thus psilocybin’s impact on this part of the brain may be the cause of an antidepressant effect seen in previous studies. The studies also reported that psilocybin cut blood flow to your hypothalamus and this may be the cause of some reported improvement for sufferers of cluster headaches.

Naturally psilocybin was commonly used in psychotherapy in the 50s, but the justification for this was never properly proven until now. The research study gives credence to the idea that psilocybin aids access to personal memories and emotions. Earlier research also hinted that psilocybin can build people’s sense of emotional well-being and possibly ease depression in people with anxiety. All of this chimes well with the new findings where psilocybin damps down mPFC activity, in the same way efficacious depression medications do.

[box type=”note”]Of course the possibilities need to be checked out further and the new studies were on the small side. However the race for discovering the benefits of magic mushrooms as a therapeutic support, is definitely back on.[/box]

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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