It’s seems like psilocybin and brain scans are a match made in magic mushroom heaven. As more experiments are conducted on volunteers who take the psychoactive ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms and allow their brains to be scanned, the more researchers can see the physical and mental changes and benefits that may be attributed to the drug. A new study did just that as tests showed psilocybin affects the part of the brain that causes social anxiety and feelings of rejection.
The study was conducted at the University Hospital of Psychiatry in Zurich, Switzerland, where 21 volunteers were given either small amounts of synthesized psilocybin (to control the dosage) or a placebo. The subjects then played a computer game designed to make them feel socially excluded. (After a certain age, don’t ALL computer games do that?)
As explained in their study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers performed brain scans on the volunteers. According to study co-author Katrin Preller, the scans on those who received the psilocybin showed reduced brain activity in regions that are normally activated by social anxiety.
Psilocybin now seems to reduce this emotional response to social exclusion by attenuating activity in associated brain areas [thus making the experience] less emotionally painful for the participants.
This means psilocybin can be useful in the treatment of severe depression and anxiety in people who feel socially excluded or shunned by others, whether for real or imagined reasons. Once the anxiety is overcome, other previous studies have shown that psychedelics can help people feel more connected, allowing the depressed patients to form relationships.
The proof is in the brains scans, which show the psilocybin reduces brain activity in areas associated with anxiety and depression.
As always, it’s important to note these experiments were conducted under medical supervision in a country where tests using psilocybin are legal and it was administered via controlled dosage, not mushrooms.
As always, it’s also important to note that, as we learn more about these drugs through the use of brain scans, the more benefits we see.