Psilocybin is one of the great unknown medicines of modern society. It has been used for millennia by tribes and societies around the world for spiritual practice; in fact, there are 6,000 year old cave paintings of mushrooms found in the Selva Pascuala cave, Spain, as well as Saharan cave paintings dated back to 7,000 BC.
Still, not enough is known, scientifically, about the fungi’s ability to change the human perspective. It is known that the psilocybin compound binds itself to serotonin receptors in the brain, which are responsible for regulating appetite, mood, and sleep, but this, alone, does not explain the intense and almost magical experiences people have while using the drug.
A recent study at King’s College London, found that psilocybin does seem to disrupt normal communication networks in the brain, which can lead to the dreamlike experience. According to Paul Expert, study co-author and physicist at King’s College London, fMRI scans showed that, while some of the brain decreased in activity, the psilocybin somehow connected “brain regions that don’t normally talk together.”
In a study of 15 volunteers, all having positive experiences with psilocyben in the past, scientists noticed unconnected regions of the brain showing a connected behavior that was, otherwise, seemingly impossible. Long range connections were being made activity that were synchronized tightly in time; long-range connections that the brain is ordinarily incapable of. The scientists believed that, rather than a dreamlike state, produced only by a slowed brain, psilocyben was actually causing the brain to enter a state similar to synesthesia (a sensory condition in which certain sense stimuli are paired with another). This is why people on psilocyben may report seeing color while listening to music or hearing sounds while looking at certain things.
This massively connected behavior is intriguing to scientists following the study. Mitul Mehta, a psychopharmacology researcher at King’s College London, who was not involved in the study, said “through studies such as these we can really begin to tackle the questions of how we achieve coherent experiences of ourselves in the world around us, and understand what makes this break down.”
The power of psilocyben is undeniable and studies like this continue to lend legitimacy to an unnecessarily persecuted world medicine.