Have you ever wondered what exactly magic mushrooms do to the brain?
I met a guy once who was happy, laid back and, to me, quite enlightened. I admired his ability to look beyond the obvious and into some place alien to the logical side of my personality. While in his company, he addressed the uninhibited side of me, coaxing a creature to unfold its wings and fly beside him into the unknown reaches of possibility.
I met a guy once and I shall never forget him, because, he had the ability to think in ways I have never experienced before. He could harness, what he refers to as, the magic of mushrooms. He said he was truly free. Sounds familiar?
Ever heard the expression, “tripping out”? Well, that’s one way to put it. What you might experience, in truth, is the effects of Psilocybin, an active ingredient in, yes, you guessed it, magic mushrooms. These intriguing edibles are in the psychedelic drug category and can bring even the most serious person into a mood of euphoria. If you’ve partaken of magic mushrooms, then you know this feeling, although you’ve probably never asked the question, “why”. Why do you feel this way by simply eating a mushroom? It all boils down to connections in the brain, rather a ‘hyperconnected brain.’
Apparently, psilocybin disrupts the normal connections in the brain, and makes ties of its own. In order to further understand this process, research expands to study how psilocybin can be used to treat depression, in controlled settings, of course. The Journal of the Royal Society Interface is part of this effort.
Paul Expert, physicist at King’s College, London, says,
“Psilocybin connects regions of the brain that don’t normally talk together.”
Understanding a New Experience
If you’ve never experienced the magic of psilocybin, then you must be curious. Magic mushrooms have the ability to dissolve boundaries of objects and oversaturate colours. It’s nothing short of a spiritual experience, filled with vivid hallucinations and the amped-up appreciation of all things art wise. Emotions are heightened, music is hypnotic and personalities are changed, even long-term.
Now that the virgins know what it’s like, let’s get back to those brain connections.
Psilocybin binds with receptors of serotonin, which is the chemical governing sleep, mood and appetite. It’s not crystal clear how this affects other connections within the brain, but research may shine light on this subject.
Past studies show that psilocybin slowed down brain activity, lulling the “tripper” into a dream-like state. Present studies revealed something a bit different.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines were used to gauge changes in the brain of 15 participants, first under a placebo and then after taking the hallucinogen, psilocybin. Only those with positive past experiences could participate in the studies. You see, some individuals may experience paranoia and panic when they feel an alteration in reality. Of course, scientists examined results on and off the hallucinogen, mapping channels of connection.
Paul Expert reports,
“Psilocybin dramatically transformed the participants’ brain organization. With the drug, normally connected brain regions showed brain activity that was synchronized tightly in time. That suggested the brain was stimulating long-range connections the brain normally wouldn’t make. After the drug wore off, brain activity went back to normal.”
How would you like to go even deeper than that? Think about pairings, like in synesthesia, where one sense is connected with another, how does that work with psilocybin?
A couple years ago, I told my son that I could hear the colour blue. Basically, I was kidding around trying to irritate him because he was over-argumentative and logical. Could we ever be able to hear the colour blue? Maybe with psilocybin, well, in a way. People who experience synesthesia under the influence of magic mushrooms can do similar feats, like attribute colours to music or numbers in colours. Hmmm, how fascinating to see Pink Floyd, not as pink, but as a soothing purple smudged with light grey clouds. Don’t forget to add a few deep blue swirls… oh wait, now we’re entering Van Gogh territory.
Sorry about that, I just get into the whole sensory movement when attributed to colour and sound. I am pro mushroom, in case you’re wondering.
In a nutshell
I’m not an expert by far, not like Paul. I can say that I understand why enlightenment is eminent when using magic mushrooms. The entire connection between synesthesia, art and mood is unmistakable. It’s no wonder psychiatrists are curious about psilocybin as a treatment for depression.
With research, there are hopes to find more connections between magic mushrooms and the sense of self. There is also hopes of exploring the reason why psilocybin leaves us happier individuals.
Mitul Mehta, a psychopharmacology Researcher at King’s College, London, says,
“Through studies such as these, we can really begin to tackle the questions of how we achieve coherent experiences of ourselves and the world around us, and understand what makes this breakdown.”
As I paint and watch smooth brush strokes of cerulean blue fade into black, and as my music reaches a heart-wrenching crescendo, I wonder….
Or rather I remember…
The days when I thought my spiritual awakening was on the horizon, and for that moment in time… I was free.