If you do some research about what people experience when they consume “magic mushrooms” and other psychedelics, you will come across expressions along the lines of “going on a trip.” The psychedelic experience users have has to do with how the substances affect the regions of the brain associated with dreaming, and now scientists have done research showing how this happens.
The study, which was published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, relied on volunteers who were injected with psilocybin (a psychedelic chemical found in magic mushrooms). The brains of these study subjects were then scanned to analyze the regions that displayed heightened or muted levels of activation. These study subjects were compared to a control group that didn’t receive the psilocybin injections.
The researchers made two key discoveries. First, the brain scans showed that the study subjects who got psilocybin injections displayed a higher amplitude or volume of activity in the parts of the brain which are consistently activated while one is in a dream state. These regions are associated with the ancient emotion system of the brain.
Secondly, the researchers established that the psychedelic chemical made the study subjects to experience expanded levels of consciousness. This means that those individuals had a wider capacity to form associations in the brain once the psychedelic compound became active in their bloodstream.
These findings make sense out of the anecdotal reports from users of psychedelics who invariably described their experience as one in which they felt a deep connection with everything around them, a sort of transformation that triggered a diminishing of the sense of self in favor of oneness.
The implications of this research shed more light on the potential uses of psychedelics as therapeutic products. For example, a lot of people who are battling a life-threatening medical condition, such as end-stage cancer, tend to feel that life is meaningless and that their life should come to a speedy end. That despondence and hopelessness isn’t just hard on the patients themselves but also on their families, caregivers and the healthcare teams doing their best in the circumstances.
Could psychedelics administered under strict medical supervision help such patients get to a better mental state? The expanded level of consciousness mapped by the researchers seems to suggest that this could be the case since the patient could feel a deep connection with the people and things around them to the extent that they would value every waking moment right to the very end.
Analysts say such exciting possibilities may be the motivation behind the massive investments being made in psychedelics research and development by companies like Psybio Therapeutics, Inc.
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