For thousands of years, the fungi kingdom has given its wonderful diversity. Whether to provide food, medicine, deadly poisons, or psychotropic drugs, the small, vibrant mushrooms are widely distributed throughout the world. Governed by its own rules and patterns, the fungi kingdom has distinguished each of its members through unique properties. For science it has been complex to study each specimen, but the so-called “magic mushrooms” have attracted special attention.
Consumed by some people for different purposes, “magic mushrooms” are currently being tested for their psychedelic effects. The active ingredient in these mushrooms, psilocybin, appears to have a number of benefits in treating mental health problems. According to Dr. Manoj Doss, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic Research, a journey with “magic mushrooms” involves different areas of the body.
How “magic mushrooms” work in the body
First, the psilocybin present in the mushroom is psychoactively broken down in the liver. Then everything happens in the brain. The main cell that is affected by the active substance is the 5-HT2A receptor, which is the main receptor for serotonin (the substance that affects mood).
A recent study ensures that being under the effect of “magic mushrooms”, 5-HT2A helps the brain to create new connections and forms of communication between cells, which would explain why people see different things when consuming these mushrooms. However, the strange sensation during a psychedelic mushroom trip goes beyond this interaction between cells.
Research suggests that fungi also act on the thalamus of the brain. In this area the information received from the outside world is filtered. What happens specifically in this area of the brain is that psilocybin causes the thalamus to communicate with more sensory regions, which, instead of ordering information in a common way, causes everything to be absorbed arbitrarily, generating perceptual alterations.
From mystical experiences to mental health treatment
If on some “magic mushroom” trip you discovered what many describe as “truths of the universe,” your brain’s default mode network had something to do with it. This network of brain regions helps with things like memory, but under the influence of psychedelics it begins to disintegrate and creates an increase in global connectivity.
That is to say, the effects are magnified so much that the experiences go from the most earthly to the mystical. For Meg Spriggs, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, this is one of the biggest advantages of magic mushrooms. “This is the reboot of brain networks, which could help with mental health disorders, through the disintegration of brain networks that causes a relaxation of a person’s previous beliefs”
Reset the brain
A study led by the same Imperial College team showed that this “reset” could have a positive and useful effect in treating depression. At this point it is tempting for scientists to find more positive effects of psychedelics, but mapping their impact is complex. The study of the mind in its natural state is difficult on its own. The brain works in extraordinary ways in every way, but adding the psychedelic factor produces activity on a larger scale.
Despite many doubts about psilocybin, experts suggest that it holds great promise for mental health treatment. And, at the end of the day, what is sought is the well-being of the being.