Can Mushrooms grow new brain cells?
For adepts of the magic mushroom this might not come as a surprise, but new research suggests that psilocybin can promote growth of new brain cells.
Research conducted by the University of South Florida has shown how psilocybin, the main psychoactive component of magic mushrooms, appears to both promote new brain cell growth and reduce fear, which could be used to treat such ailments as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety related disorders.
Psilocybine and fear
The mind behind this study is Dr. Sanchez-Ramos. The research team knew that psilocybin plays a role in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with learning and memory; what they were interested in exploring was how psilocybin effected fear, and short term memory of it. They conducted experiments on mice, training two groups to associate a particular noise with an impending electric shock. They gave one group a low dose of psilocybin and nothing to the other, recording the differences in their levels of hear at hearing the noise. They expected that psilocybin would make it easier for fearful memories to be created, but what they found was the opposite. "They stopped freezing; they lost their fear," said Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, a professor of movement disorders. It resulted in the mice given psilocybin dealing with the fear of the impending shock much better, especially in comparison to the control group who were still rife with it.
This implies that magic mushrooms could be used as a therapeutic coping strategy, or even cure for those suffering from fear or anxiety related disorders such as PDST in the future.
Mushrooms cause neurogenesis
What the research also found was that the frequent dosing of psilocybin also seemed to cause neurogenesis, the process of creating new brain cells, especially within the hippocampus region of the brain. What this means is that psilocybin could have further implications improving memory and learning ability.
It should be noted that this research was conducted on mice, so it is still a long way from clinical trials. As a result these findings and implications must be taken with a degree of scepticism and caution until more expansive research is conducted into the area. However, the news is promising and lays a solid foundations for future research on the subject. It also backs up previous research into the use of psilocybin to alleviate stress, anxiety and fear.
A major issue that is largely halting progress within the field, is that psilocybin is a controlled substance in most countries. Even though research has found that magic mushrooms are the least harmful drug around, and are practically impossible to overdose on, they are classed within the most harmful and serious bracket of drugs by most governments.