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How Magic Mushrooms Affect Your Brain: Neuroscience of Psilocybin

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Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound that can be found in certain species of mushrooms. It is this chemical substance that gives people the feeling of “magic.” But magic is only half of the answer.

Though science can’t explain everything we experience during a mushroom trip, it is catching up fast to the world’s favourite psychedelic.

The evolution of neuroscience and the discovery that psilocybin stimulates new neural growth has led to a plethora of research into how this relatively unknown drug can help treat various ailments.

So what exactly happens in your brain when you eat the poisonous shrooms? Read on to find out!

What is Psilocin? What is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin is the main molecule in mushrooms that gets you high. Just like THC is the psychoactive compound of cannabis, mushrooms containing psilocybin are those that will get you high.

Psilocin is a slightly different compound that also gets you high. It’s very unstable outside of the human body and deteriorates quickly, so when eating mushrooms, you mostly absorb psilocybin.

When you digest the mushrooms, psilocybin will be broken down and will turn to psilocin. Once absorbed into the bloodstream, the trip begins.

How does it affect the brain?

When psilocybin reaches the brain, it binds to receptors that are naturally found on brain cells. These receptors act as a keyhole for the drug and trigger changes in neural activity. The effects of psilocybin depend on which type of receptor is activated by the molecule. 

Serotonin has been called the “happy hormone” because of its role as a neurotransmitter involved with mood regulation. Psychedelics can disrupt this function by increasing serotonin release or blocking reuptake.

People often take psilocybin for the first time and have a strong body load, including nausea, dizziness, or shivering. They may feel anxious due to overstimulation of senses. These symptoms usually don’t last long, but some people experience them longer than others.

The intensity of the body load is due to increased blood flow in your muscles and capillaries. These vessels bring nutrients and oxygen through a network of branches called arborescences located near muscle fibres. Combining these two factors produces more energy for your muscles resulting in feelings like shivering or shaking. 

What about hallucinations?

Hallucinating is described as something you see or hear that isn’t there. Hallucinations can happen through any of the five senses, but auditory and visual hallucinations are most common because they involve hearing or seeing something.

When tripping on mushrooms, people have reported seeing a range of things, such as patterns that change and move on their own, and otherworldly creatures.

This happens because the drug causes neurons in your brain to release some of the same chemicals released when you dream. Just like your brain can create images when you’re sleeping, it can do the same when you’re awake.

The blur between reality and your imagination can be very unsettling to newer users, which is why we always recommend starting with a low dose.

Auditory hallucinations are also prevalent among shroomers people who use mushrooms or LSD. Some people will hear music or voices that aren’t there, which can seem very real to the person experiencing them.

Changing dimensions

In keeping up with the dream theme, some users may report entering another dimension. This feeling can be due to the same neurotransmitters released in REM sleep, when your brain is active from dreaming, but you’re not actually moving or living through the events of your dream..

The higher the dose, the more disrupted your reality will be until you don’t recognize anything around you. This can cause a feeling of being in another world.

Ego Death

Ego death is the term used to describe the sensation of being completely immersed in a hallucination, to the point where there is no distinction between what’s real and unreal. Enlightenment, Nirvana, and being born-again are all synonyms of ego Death.

Read more about ego death in this blog post.

People who have experienced ego death typically report that they’ve lost track of what’s going on around them and don’t know how long the experience lasted. They also lose their sense of identity, which can be unsettling to people used to being in control. Forgetting your own name isn’t unheard of during ego death.

Ego dissolution is not fully understood yet, but one interesting theory is gaining traction. It supports the idea that psilocybin acts on the area of the brain responsible for separating where your body ends, and the outside world begins.

When the two become intertwined, you may feel like you are part of everything around you, thus becoming one with the universe.

Restructure your neural pathways

The human brain works by wiring together different modules, kind of like one big connect-the-dots picture. When you do something new or experience a new sensation, your brain creates pathways to make it easy to react the next time something similar happens.

For people with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or OCD, the neural pathways that connect parts of the brain can be malformed. You may have a hard time figuring out how to feel good, or even worse, you might not realize when something is making you feel bad.

Psychedelics work by creating new neural pathways and weakening or eliminating the problematic ones.

The Best is Yet to Come

Psilocybin has a lot of interesting effects on your brain. In fact, it’s been shown to produce changes in the amygdala and hippocampus, two areas that process emotions and regulate memories. The substance is also known for its ability to bring about feelings of euphoria or intense spiritual experiences, which may explain why some cultures have used mushrooms as part of their religious ceremonies for centuries.

Our knowledge of psilocybin and the way it works has been severely limited by prohibition. We know what we learned from small-scale research projects with a few dozen participants who’ve been given doses of varying strengths.

Other substances have shown promising results in treating depression and anxiety disorders (like MDMA, LSD, and ketamine), so more research will lead to better understanding, which could result in optimal treatments for mental health conditions like PTSD or OCD.

If you want to see these effects yourself, grab some Golden Teachers, and let them teach you!

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