New Study: Magic Mushrooms For A Bright Mood
The substance in question is psilocybin - the psychedelic compound that is found within both magic mushrooms and truffles alike. It is this alkaloid that is thought to hold great potential for the treatment of depression. This new research was recently published in the Journal Biology Psychiatry, and was conducted by researchers from the Psychiatric University Hospital of Zurich.
Before the study was conducted, the researcher theorized that the psilocybin found in magic mushrooms weakens the way our brains process negative thoughts; thus, should you suffer from depression, where the processing of negative thoughts can often be exaggerated, psilocybin should in theory reduce negativity and provide a mood lift.
To start putting this to the test, the researchers recruited 25 healthy participants to see how their brains would react. Half of the group were given a small dose of psilocybin, whilst the others were given a placebo. The brain activity of each patient was then analyzed using fMRI as participants were shown pictures of both distressing and normal scenes.
What the researchers found was very enlightening. The amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for processing negative emotion, was significantly less active in those who were given psilocybin. In other words, psilocybin seems to inhibit the development of negative emotions. This made those who had taken the psychedelic compound less vulnerable to negative situations, and was even reported to lift their mood.
This is significant news, and has large implications for those who suffer from depression and other similar mood conditions. However, a major point to keep in mind is that this was not conducted on patients suffering from depression. It was an initial study to assess how psilocybin would effect a ‘healthy’ person first – to establish a baseline. According to Rainer Krahenmann, the study’s author, investigating the effects of psilocybin on patients diagnosed with depression is the next step.
The spiritual dimension
One aspect that isn’t often addressed in studies is the spiritual part of the psychedelic experience. While depression has very physical manifestations in the brain, those can be the result of a lost sense of purpose or a disconnection with life. Beside reducing the development of negative emotions, psilocybin is known to induce a profound sense of interconnectedness. The Marsh chapel experiment of 1962 looked at exactly this aspect and found that many members of the psilocybin group experienced what they called „profound religious experiences“. One participant described the trip as "the most powerful cosmic homecoming I have ever experienced.“ It is this type of experience that fundamentally changes an individual’s outlook on life - in which lies the possibility to overcome a depressive period.