APR 15, 2020 3:22 PM PDT

How Magic Mushrooms Restructure the Brain

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

For some time now, researchers have suspected that psilocybin, the hallucinogen chemical present in ‘magic mushrooms’, may be able to reshape brain cells. Now, using brain models, they have been able to visualize how they are able to do so. 

To create their model, the researchers took brain images from nine people either injected with psilocybin or a placebo. They then used these images to create a ‘whole-brain connectome’ providing a picture of all the neurons in the brain, alongside activity of different neurotransmitters. 

While under normal conditions neurons fire neurotransmitters along well-trodden neural pathways in the brain, they found that when on magic mushrooms, these pathways were ‘destabilized’. Rather than traveling along the well-trodden pathways, the neurotransmitters tended to take new ‘roads’ to new destinations. 

In the end, their models showed that while on magic mushrooms, the brain taps into new networks by coupling the effects of neuron activity and the release of neurotransmitters. 

To understand the extent of the interdependency between neuron activity and the release of neurotransmitters, they then adjusted the model to have these processes work independently of each other. Under these conditions, they ultimately found that the same ‘destabilization’ process did not happen. The researchers thus concluded that both the receptors and patterns of neuron activity are necessary for psilocybin to have its psychedelic effects. 

“It has long been a puzzle how the brain's fixed anatomical connectome can give rise to so many radically different brain states; from normal wakefulness to deep sleep and altered psychedelic states,” says Morten Kringleback, first author of the study and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford, England. 

“We only have a fixed amount of hardware in the brain, yet we're running highly complicated software that produces dreams, consciousness, and — if someone is on a drug like DMT — "breakthrough experiences."

The team hopes that their model will provide a basis to understand more about how psychedelics such as psilocybin can rebalance neuropsychiatric disorders such as treatment-resistant depression and addiction.


 

Sources: Inverse, PNAS

 

 

 

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
JUL 30, 2020
Immunology
Sunshine Could Lower Your Risk of Developing MS
JUL 30, 2020
Sunshine Could Lower Your Risk of Developing MS
In multiple sclerosis, or MS, the insulating sheaths around nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord called myelin becom ...
AUG 06, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Fragile X Model Has a Very Specific Brain Abnormality
AUG 06, 2020
Fragile X Model Has a Very Specific Brain Abnormality
Cilia are like little antennae on cells, and most cells have one. If they're dysfunctional, it can cause serious problem ...
AUG 12, 2020
Neuroscience
Low Exposure to Air Pollution May Cause Irregular Brain Development
AUG 12, 2020
Low Exposure to Air Pollution May Cause Irregular Brain Development
A new study shows that even low air pollution levels can influence the development of children’s brains.  It ...
AUG 24, 2020
Neuroscience
Researchers Crowdfund $30 Million for Psychedelic Therapy for PTSD
AUG 24, 2020
Researchers Crowdfund $30 Million for Psychedelic Therapy for PTSD
In a historic feat, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has raised $30 million to complete ...
SEP 21, 2020
Neuroscience
Scientists Compare Structural and Functional Evolution with First Atlas of Cavefish Brains
SEP 21, 2020
Scientists Compare Structural and Functional Evolution with First Atlas of Cavefish Brains
Cavefish are fish that dwell in caves, unable to access the outside world. Often, they were separated from their closest ...
OCT 20, 2020
Immunology
The Immune Pause Button Slowing MS Progression
OCT 20, 2020
The Immune Pause Button Slowing MS Progression
  Scientists have a new theory about the genetics behind the progressive, debilitating effects of multiple sclerosi ...
Loading Comments...