At first glance, Psilocybe cubensis doesn’t look particularly magical. In fact, the scientific name of this little brown-and-white mushroom roughly translates to “bald head,” befitting the fungus’s rather mild-mannered appearance. But those who have ingested a dose of P. cubensis say it changes the user’s world.
The mushroom is one of more than 100 species that contain compounds called psilocybin and psilocin, which are psychoactive and cause hallucinations, euphoria and other trippy symptoms. These “magic mushrooms” have long been used in Central American religious ceremonies, and are now part of the black market in drugs in the United States and many other countries, where they are considered a controlled substance.
How does a modest little mushroom upend the brain so thoroughly? Read on for the strange secrets of ‘shrooms.
1. Mushrooms hyperconnect the brain
The compounds in psilocybin mushrooms may give users a “mind-melting” feeling, but in fact, the drug does just the opposite — psilocybin actually boosts the brain’s connectivity, according to an October 2014 study. Researchers at King’s College London asked 15 volunteers undergo brain scanning by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. They did so once after ingesting a dose of magic mushrooms, and once after taking a placebo. The resulting brain connectivity maps showed that, while under the influence of the drug, the brain synchronizes activity among areas that would not normally be connected. This alteration in activity could explain the dreamy state that ‘shroom users report experiencing after taking the drug, the researchers said.
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