A clinical trial in the UK, headed by Dr. David Nutt has been investigating the effects of psilocybin (the chemical in magic mushrooms) on areas of the brain associated with mental illness.
"Our aim was to identify the precise areas inside the brain where the drug is active. We thought when we started that psilocybin would activate different parts of the brain. But we haven’t found any activation anywhere. All we have found are reductions in blood flow"
A fall in blood flow suggests that brain activity has reduced. The areas affected were those parts of the brain that tell us who we are, where we are and what we are. When these areas were dampened down, I was no longer locked into my everyday constraints.
This is also one of the reasons why magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs are so potentially dangerous. Without a sense of who and what they are, there are cases of people running into busy roads or trying to fly with fatal consequences.
But David thinks that because psilocybin can dampen activity in critical areas of the brain it may, in future, also have a place in the treatment of mental disorders like depression.
"In conditions like depression or obsessive compulsive disorder, where people get locked into a maladaptive mindsets, these regions can be overactive. So maybe dampening down these areas will help people move into another mindset which might be better and healthier".
American researchers, using non-hallucinogenic versions, have already begun researching the use of former “psychedelics” for treating depression, obsessive compulsion disorder, alcoholism, and addiction.