|Can you see the mushrooms in this stereogram?|
The healthy volunteers in this study showed decreased brain blood flow and venous oxygenation in certain areas of the brain (specifically the cingulate cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex) after the participants received intravenous injections of psilocybin. This surprised the researchers, who thought that psilocybin was going to increase brain activity in regions like the visual cortex, which would explain the visual changes associated with its recreational use.
"Remarkably, the decreases were localized to important connector hubs in the brain that serve as key junctions for information transfers. Knocking out these key hubs with psilocybin appears to allow information to travel more freely, probably explaining why people's imaginations become more vivid and animated and the world is experienced as unusual," said the lead author.
The researchers noted that these areas of the brain are known to be overactive in patients with depression and that antidepressants, psychotherapy, and even meditation are used to bring the activity in these regions back to "normal."
"We think that in depression, people are continually overlinking thoughts and ruminations and we think this may help break that link," added another researcher involved in the study. "We've also heard case reports that it's been useful in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, so it would be great if research were to also look at that area too."
Also, according to the researchers, previous "anecdotal reports" have suggested that psychedelics may be beneficial in reducing symptoms of cluster headaches.
Although more research is needed, the ongoing stigmatization of psychedelics continues to provide obstacles. By the 1960s, psilocybin, LSD, and other drugs were taken from the laboratory setting and used recreationally by many people who often had no idea how to take these compounds safely.
As this became a public health concern, clinical research with these drugs went dark for several decades. Now, a number of researchers are starting to take a safe and fresh look at these compounds to help us understand consciousness and psychopathology, and perhaps to help us develop new and more effective treatments.
Source: Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin
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