We’re still along way from picking up a pound of magic mushrooms at the grocery store next to the portabellas, but new research showing their positive effects on brain cell growth means we may someday find them in the dark, damp corners of medicine cabinets at mental health centers and clinics treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.
Researchers from the University of Florida recently published a report in the journal Experimental Brain Research on their findings that psilocybin can bind to special receptors in the brain that stimulate healing and growth. In tests on mice with damaged brain cells, the researchers found that psilocybin stimulated the creation of new ones.
Next, they focused on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and for moving information from short-term to long-term memory.
Lead researcher Dr. Juan R. Sanchez-Ramos trained mice to associate a noise with an electric shock. After giving them psilocybin, the mice were able to stop fearing the noise much faster than mice not receiving psilocybin. Sanchez-Ramos sees this as a good reason for further research on mushroom magic in the brain.
The in vitro and in vivo animal data is compelling enough to explore whether psilocybin will enhance neurogenesis and result in measurable improvements in learning.
The combination of generating new brain cells and improving learning means psilocybin can be helpful in the treatment of PTSD and depression by repairing physical damage, restoring learning functions and relieving the depression associated with injury and loss of memory.
The recent tragic shootings at military bases show an urgent need for treating the effects of PTSD with drugs that don’t have side effects that contribute to rather than alleviate psychosis. Perhaps it’s time to stop putting helmets on their heads and put mushrooms in their heads instead.