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  • Narrator: This is the map of a typical human brain,

  • and this is the map of a brain on psilocybin,

  • the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms.

  • All those new connections you can see

  • don't just make people trip.

  • They're also the reason that psilocybin

  • is one of today's most talked-about drugs

  • in certain medical circles.

  • Worldwide, more than 180 species of mushrooms

  • produce psilocybin, likely as a defense strategy.

  • Scientists believe that psilocybin

  • may dampen the appetite of predatory insects like ants

  • so that they feel full long before eating their way

  • through the entire mushroom.

  • Humans, on the other hand, well, they trip.

  • Johnson: Psilocybin is a so-called classic psychedelic,

  • so it's in the same category as drugs like LSD

  • and works in the brain in basically the same way.

  • Narrator: When you take psilocybin, your gut converts it

  • into another chemical, known as psilocin,

  • which binds to serotonin receptors called 2A,

  • and experts think that's what triggers

  • what they call neuronal avalanching.

  • It's essentially a domino effect

  • of different changes in the brain.

  • You've got increased activity in the visual cortex,

  • which leads to changes in your perception,

  • and then decreased network activity

  • in the default mode network, which leads to a loss of ego.

  • Johnson: And that may be why people often report

  • at high doses

  • a profound sense of unity, transcending beyond themselves.

  • Narrator: But perhaps most importantly,

  • psilocybin increases connectivity

  • among different regions of the brain.

  • Johnson: Because of that receptor activation,

  • there is a profound change

  • in the way that different areas of the brain

  • synchronize with each other.

  • Narrator: Think of it like an orchestra.

  • Normally, the brain has different musical groups

  • that each play independently.

  • Johnson: A sextet there, here's a quartet there.

  • This one's playing jazz. This one's classical,

  • and a number of other ones.

  • Narrator: But once psilocybin enters,

  • it's like you suddenly have a conductor.

  • Johnson: So there is this communication between areas

  • that are normally kind of compartmentalized

  • and doing their own thing.

  • Narrator: Scientists believe that it's a combination

  • of these effects that make psilocybin so useful

  • for combating depression and addiction.

  • When new areas in the brain start talking to each other,

  • for example, you might have new insights into old problems.

  • And that's why some experts describe tripping

  • as a condensed version of talk therapy.

  • And then dissolving your ego, Johnson says...

  • Johnson: Can be profoundly healing.

  • Narrator: And there's actually an increasing amount

  • of research to prove it.

  • In two studies published in 2016,

  • researchers gave cancer patients with depression

  • a large dose of psilocybin, and even six months later,

  • at least 80% of them showed significant decreases

  • in depressed mood.

  • And research on addiction is equally promising.

  • In a study led by Johnson, 15 volunteers took psilocybin

  • to quit smoking, and after six months,

  • 80% of them had kicked the habit,

  • compared to a rate of about 35%

  • for the drug varenicline, which is widely considered

  • the best smoking-cessation drug out there.

  • Yet despite these results,

  • psilocybin is still listed as a Schedule I drug,

  • a category reserved for compounds

  • that have no currently accepted medical use

  • and a high potential for abuse.

  • Now, taking magic mushrooms recreationally

  • does come with some risks.

  • Johnson: So a dramatic example would be

  • driving under the influence of psilocybin

  • or using it in a way that interferes with your job,

  • or your family relations, or your schoolwork, for example.

  • Narrator: But as far as scientists know,

  • long-term use doesn't damage the brain

  • in the way that other drugs can,

  • and according to at least one study,

  • it's actually the safest drug out there.

  • In 2018, for example, just 0.3% of people

  • who reported taking them needed medical emergency treatment,

  • compared to 0.9% for ecstasy and 1.3% for alcohol.

  • Taken altogether, that's why some states

  • across the country have campaigned

  • to decriminalize psilocybin, including Denver,

  • which, in May of 2019, became the first ever to succeed.

Narrator: This is the map of a typical human brain,

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How Magic Mushrooms Affect Your Brain

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/12/16
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