Now, this sure won’t be news to fans of hallucinogens, but scientists have recently proven that psychedelics really do open your mind, maaan. Yep, the folks in white coats have finally verified what has been anecdotally reported for donkey’s years.
Aldous Huxley knew it, Terence McKenna knew it, Grace Slick knew it, you know it too! In fact, in his iconic 1954 book The Doors of Perception Huxley described how he believed psychedelics (in this case mescaline) achieved this ‘mind-opening’ in the user. He claimed that the psychedelic “lowers the efficiency of the brain as an instrument for focusing the mind on the problems of life”.
Let Your Mind Wander Free
So basically, Huxley proposed that psychedelics make the brain less efficient for dealing with the rational. Doesn’t sound so useful right? Wrong! What it does mean is that for the time you are tripping, you are free from mental constraints. These keep your mind from wandering free like it did when you were a child. It is often due to the experience of growing up, gaining responsibilities, and existing in this tough old world that these barriers form. This insight also lasts after your trip. This is one of the reasons many people cite a psychedelic experience as the most important event of their lives.
‘Prediction Machines’ and the REBUS Model
Parker Singleton, a PhD candidate at Cornell university, is the psychedelic-leaning scientist who (along with some colleagues) decided to check it out. They used the REBUS model. This is a theoretical model of how psychedelics affect the brain, that aims to go beyond simply looking at structures and receptors. It was developed by two English neuroscientists, Robert Carhart-Harris and Karl Friston, to better understand the effects of psychedelic therapies. It states that our brains are ‘prediction machines’— we collect ‘data’ from our life experiences. They see it as kinda like predictive coding. REBUS stands for RElaxed Beliefs Under pSychedelics.
fMRI – The Wonder Machine
Anyway! Using this model Singleton and his Cornell buddies gave some volunteers either a dose of LSD or a placebo. Then they gave their brains a scan in our favourite wonder machine— the fMRI. There were four evident brain states, or patterns, that the brain was seen to switch between in the scanner. Two were main-players in processing information and forming expectations of the world based on experience and information. The other two were sensorially driven. The volunteers who had been given LSD had far more activity in the latter sensory-driven areas than in the high-level processing areas.
“Normally, our thoughts and incoming information are filtered by our prior experience. But if you take that filtering and suppression away, you are looking at the world with new eyes. You get a totally new perspective.”
When the researchers compared brain scans of LSD with the placebo they found that the psychedelic made it easier for the brain to switch from one state to another, as it used less energy to do so than usual.
A senior author on the study, Dr Amy Kuceyeski, compares this process to the flattening of a landscape. LSD causes all the obstacles — psychic ‘mountains’ and ‘valleys’, to even out so the brain can wander. She explains “It allows us to move more freely and have more dynamic brain activity.”
The researchers found that this effect was largely due to the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A. This receptor complex binds to psychedelic substances such as LSD or psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms and truffles. This is the part that ‘opens your mind’, and why these psychedelic substances are making such waves in the therapeutic arena — treating everything from depression to OCD.
‘New Insights Into Old Problems’
As Professor David Nutt, psychedelic science pioneer of Imperial College London, states
“The whole process of child development and education is to take your brain, which is extremely malleable, and force it to be like everyone else’s brain. Under psychedelics, you go back to a state where bits of the brain that haven’t spoken since you were a baby can cross-talk. And it’s that increased connectivity that allows people to get new insights into old problems,”
This study is pretty fresh, and still waiting to be peer-reviewed, but it follows a parade of exciting findings in the psychedelic medicine field. The mind-opening properties of psychedelics, like magic mushrooms, are being recognized for what they are in all their mutli-faceted glory. They could be your cure for depression, your connection to your inner child, even your inspiration to write a psychedelic masterpiece like Huxley!
Just free your mind! (and the rest will follow 😉)
For a little help getting there, check out our range of fresh magic truffles and magic mushroom grow kits. All the psilocybin you need to connect to your inner child, and go a-wandering in the landscapes of your mind…