New Studies Show the Strange, Stunning Ways Magic Mushrooms Create Happiness, Treat Depression

 According to two new studies at the Imperial College London, magic mushrooms really can make you happy. 

The first study, which showed mushrooms can help curb depression, demonstrates a method of action you might not expect from tripping. From the Huffington Post:

Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, is known to trigger wild sensory experiences and changes in consciousness. But one of the aforementioned studies, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that instead of "expanding" brain activity, psilocybin actually curtails it.

Scientists gave psilocybin to 30 people and monitored their brain activity with an MRI scanner. The scans showed that psilocybin was linked to reduced activity in regions of the brain associated with high-level reasoning.

"These hubs constrain our experience of the world and keep it orderly," Dr. David Nutt, a professor of medicine at the college and senior author of both studies, said in a written statement. "Deactivating these regions leads to a state in which the world is experienced as strange."

One brain region affected by psilocybin, the medial prefrontal cortex, is typically overactive in depressed individuals. Researchers suspect the drug may help alleviate depression by curbing activity in that region. This would explain previous research that found that when patients with anxiety were given psilocybin, their depression scores fell.

The method of 'shroom-induced happiness discovered in the second study is perhaps even more stunning:

For the second study, slated for publication in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers asked 10 people to think about memories associated with strong positive emotions. Participants who had taken psilocybin reported their memories as more vivid compared with participants given a placebo.

Two weeks later, the same people were asked to rate changes in their emotional well-being. Researchers discovered a strong link between participants' ratings of how vivid there memories were, and their well-being two weeks later. They conjecture that psilocybin facilitates access to personal memories and emotions, which may boost mental health.

Read more here

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at January 24, 2012, 10:24am

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