Psilocybin Mushrooms – Effects on Your Brain
Anybody who has heard about, read about, or taken magic mushrooms knows that they have a profound effect on the taker. From hallucinations to ego death to incredible revelations, people specifically seek out the almighty shroom spirit as a catalyst for change in how they feel, think, and perceive. But the average Joe – and even the casual mushroom user – don’t usually know the science behind shrooms and why they do the things they do. So to help enlighten you about this much-talked-about drug, here is everything you need to know about what psilocybin does to your brain.
What is Psilocybin?
Psilocybin is the psychoactive compound in what is colloquially called shrooms, magic mushrooms, or psilocybin mushrooms, of which there are more than 180 known species. When you ingest magic mushrooms that are grown from psilocybin mushroom spores containing psilocybin, it’s converted in the liver into the psychoactive form psilocin. Once in your body, psilocin gets to work making all sorts of changes happen in your brain, which are responsible for the experiential effects of shrooms that people report and seek. What follows is an explanation of how.
Serotonin: It Feels Good, Man
One of the first effects most people will notice of psilocybin mushrooms is one that also tends to come with other psychoactive drugs like marijuana and LSD: an uplifted mood. This is because of psilocybin’s effect on the 5-HT2A receptor, one of the cell types in the brain that receive serotonin, a hormone that stabilizes our mood and makes us happy. In fact, many treatments for depression specifically target these receptors as a way to increase the amount of available serotonin in the patient’s system. Psychedelic mushrooms from magic mushroom spores may be able to work in a similar fashion to relieve depression.
The Claustrum: Ego Death
One of the regions of the brain that psilocybin impacts is the claustrum, which is a thin, bilateral structure connecting the cortical and subcortical regions of the brain. While this is a lesser-studied part of the brain, it is thought to be responsible for things like attention, switching tasks, consciousness, and coordinating different parts of the brain to work together.
A recent 2020 study showed that the claustrum contains a large number of receptors targeted by psilocybin, and when people use psilocybin, it reduces neural activity in the claustrum by 15 to 30 percent. This ground-breaking research poses a potential physical reason for some of the subjective experiences of tripping on magic mushroom spores such as a reduced sense of self or ego and emotional or mystical experiences.
Breaking Down Old Connections and Creating New Ones
Interestingly, one of the most profound effects of magic mushrooms comes from psilocybin’s effect on the brains functioning as a whole rather than one particular region of it. Research shows that psilocybin can prompt the brain to create new links across regions that were once disconnected. This can potentially explain why people under the influence of magic mushrooms might experience synesthesia, or the cross-sensing ability that allows you to see sounds or hear colors, as well as all sorts of other experiences that read as mystical.
This switch-up in the brain’s organizational patterns may also give another reason why psilocybin has proven to be such a powerful anti-depressant. See, when it’s working normally, the brain has a specific way for its different regions to function together. When the brain is stuck in its consistent (even rigid) thought patterns, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental illness. Psilocybin’s ability to disintegrate these networks and create new types of connections helps people to break out of established, potentially unhealthy thought patterns – a type of brain “reset.”
The Thalamus: Things Are Getting Trippy
Yet another part of the brain that is affected by psilocybin is the thalamus, which filters information from the outside world and helps you to make sense of it. When under the influence of psilocybin, the thalamus starts to function a little differently. Essentially, it ramps up its communication with the sensory regions of the brain devoted to processing sights, tastes, smells, and so on. This can be a possible reason for hallucinations, as the thalamus takes in much more sensory information than usual, not filtering it as it might regularly do. As a result, your brain can’t figure out where to put its attention, leading to the perceptual distortions that are so characteristic of a magic mushroom trip.
Long-Term Effects of Psilocybin
One of the most interesting parts of psilocybin’s positive effect on the brain is that it seems to persist even after the subjective “tripping” experience is over. According to a 2020 study, the reduction in negative mood and depression, increase in a positive mood, and reduced brain activity in the amygdala in response to negative stimuli continued well after the initial ingestion of psilocybin, as long as at least one week and even one month. Another study done in 2016 showed that between 60 and 80 percent of participants had reduced anxiety and depression even over half a year after their initial trip.
The implications of this research are great, suggesting that psilocybin may be an effective treatment for a number of mental illnesses, as well as the emotional and existential dread that is experienced by people with fatal illnesses. In fact, this research and more research like it is currently being used to justify the therapeutic use of and eventual decriminalization of psilocybin, a substance with the potential to vastly improve lives that has unfortunately earned an erroneous reputation not fitting to its actual effects. The hope is that as people – including both policymakers and the general public – become more educated about the material reality of how psilocybin can genuinely, significantly help people, it will become more available, less stigmatized, and take its rightful role as a respected gift from the Earth.
Check out our list of available Psilocybin Mushroom Spores if you would like to purchase Magic Mushroom Spores.