Magic Mushrooms Create a Hyperconnected Brain

Written by on October 30, 2014 in Sci-Tech, Science with 5 Comments

Tia Ghose | Livescience

Magic mushrooms can create vivid hallucinations of strange and fantastical things, such as abstract geometric shapes. Credit: WhiteHaven/Shutterstock.com

Magic mushrooms can create vivid hallucinations of strange and fantastical things, such as abstract geometric shapes.
Credit: WhiteHaven/Shutterstock.com

Magic mushrooms may give users trippy experiences by creating a hyperconnected brain.


The active ingredient in the psychedelic drug, psilocybin, seems to completely disrupt the normal communication networks in the brain, by connecting “brain regions that don’t normally talk together,” said study co-author Paul Expert, a physicist at King’s College London.

The research, which was published today (Oct. 28) in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, is part of a larger effort to understand how psychedelic drugs work, in the hopes that they could one day be used by psychiatrists — in carefully controlled settings — to treat conditions such as depression, Expert said. [Trippy Tales: The History of 8 Hallucinogens]

Magic mushrooms

Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, is best known for triggering vivid hallucinations. It can make colors seem oversaturated and dissolve the boundaries between objects.

But the drug also seems to have more long-lasting effects. Many people report intensely spiritual experiences while taking the drug, and some studies even suggest that one transcendent trip can alter people’s personalities on a long-term basis, making those individuals more open to new experiences and more appreciative of art, curiosity and emotion.

People who experiment with psilocybin “report it as one of the most profound experiences they’ve had in their lives, even comparing it to the birth of their children,” Expert told Live Science.


Making connections

Scientists have long known that psilocybin binds to a receptor in the brain for serotonin, a brain chemical that plays a role in mood, appetite and sleep, but exactly how the drug transforms the whole brain’s pattern of communication isn’t clear.

In past work, Expert’s colleagues had found that psilocybin spurred the brain into a more dreamlike state, and that the drug decreased brain activity.

In the current study, the team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brain activity of 15 healthy volunteers — once after they had taken a placebo, and once after they took the hallucinogen psilocybin. (The team chose only people who had reported past positive experiences with magic mushrooms to prevent them from panicking inside the claustrophobic MRI machines.)

The team then compared the brain activity of the individuals on and off the drug, and created a map of connections between different brain regions.

Psilocybin dramatically transformed the participants’ brain organization, Expert said. With the drug, normally unconnected brain regions showed brain activity that was synchronized tightly in time. That suggested the drug was stimulating long-range connections the brain normally wouldn’t make. After the drug wore off, brain activity went back to normal.

Drug’s effect

Psilocybin may create a brain state akin to synesthesia, a sensory effect in which one sense stimulus (such as a number) always gets paired in the brain with another (such as a color or a sound), the researchers wrote in the paper.

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  1. garybt7@frontier.com' Nat Turner says:

    As long as we keep it illegal the sheeeeeple will stay in line and not question the ignorance they have always accepted.

  2. thatcrazytoaster@mail.com' Katherine L says:

    Some folks are meant to sleep. I wonder how this experience compares to Ayahuasca. I’m looking forward to it. If the brain that Terrance McKenna developed can be had by others, count me in. That’s where its at!

  3. thatcrazytoaster@mail.com' Katherine L says:

    Illegal or not, that’s not going to stop those that want the experience and the expansion.

  4. Funcotech@yahoo.com' John Cook says:

    It was substances like this that raised man beyond the animal.
    We truely owe it all, I mean conscious, spiritual development, to DMT, Psilocybin, Mescaline, Bufotinin, Muscarine (the substance in those mushrooms that are red with white spots) and various others.
    I believe the prohibition of these god given substances is a great wrong. I believe it is not accidental, not driven by ignorance but by fear of the mental clarity the use of them creates. Clarity to see through their mind fuks and lies.

  5. jensen.stefan1986@gmail.com' stefan says:

    The thing about this mushroom creating a larger connection between the brain halfes just tells you that the mushroom itself is a teacher. It teaches you one aspect of life just like another natural drug teaches you something else. We can not ignore nature forever, thats who we are. The modern society completly destroyed our brains i would say. Nothing is real anymore.

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