Ask a healthy person who’s tripped on psychedelics what it felt like, and they’ll probably tell you they saw sounds or heard colors: The crash-bang of a dropped box took on an aggressive,dark shape. A bright green light seemed to emit a piercing, high-pitched screech.
In actuality, this “cross-wiring” — synaesthesia, as it’s known scientifically — may be one example of the drug “freeing” the brain from its typical connection patterns. And this fundamental change in how the brain sends and receives information also might be the reason the drugs are so promising
as a treatment for people with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, or addiction.
“I’m absolutely sure that, within ten years, psilocybin will be an accepted treatment for depression,” David Nutt, the director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit in the division of brain sciences at Imperial College London told me last month.
To understand why he might believe this so strongly, it helps to take a look first at how a healthy brain works — and then at how a psychedelic trip appears to modify the way a depressed brain does.
Normally, information is exchanged in the brain across various circuits, or what Paul Expert, who coauthored one of the first studies to map the
activity in the human brain on psilocybin, described to me as “informational highways.” On some highways, there’s a steady stream of traffic. On others, however, there are rarely more than a few cars on the road. Psychedelics appear to drive traffic to these underused highways, opening up dozens
of different routes and freeing up some space along the more heavily used ones.
Robin Carhart-Harris, who leads the psychedelic research arm of the Center for Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London,
captured these changes in one of the first neuroimaging studies of the brain on a psychedelic trip. He presented his findings last year in New York at a conference on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. With psilocybin, “there was a definite sense of lubrication, of freedom, of the cogs being loosened and firing in all sorts of unexpected directions,” Carhart-Harris said.
Here’s a visualization that Expert created to show the brain connections in a person on psilocybin (shrooms) — the chart on the right — compared to the connections in the brain of someone not on the drug (left):
Our videos describing different aspects of what we do.
How Do Psychedelic Drugs Work On The Brain? (Full Lecture)
Comeback of psychedelics in science and medicine: Robin Carhart Harris
Mendel Kaelen: Psychological & Neurophysiological Effects of Music in Combination with Psychedelics
Robin Carhart Harris 20th July 2016
EXCLUSIVE: Could magic mushrooms treat depression? BBC Newsnight
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- on The administration of psilocybin to healthy hallucinogen experienced volunteers Hello everyone I'm on antidepressant from couple of years and I try many different types. Right now I have worst time ever. I try mushrooms which one found my self on last season 2016. I have found but that was very difficult for me. I go nearly ever…
- on Help us treat depression! I would be very interested to hear about your research on your use of psychedelics , I would be very interested if you are looking for new volunteers for further trials , I am 50 years old and I have suffered with depression for 25 years and have fou…
- on The administration of psilocybin to healthy hallucinogen experienced volunteers Hi, I have read your articles and I am currently on anti depressants. I have tried different kinds as I have mild PTSD from military service and suffer from depression constantly. I would very much like to assist and be a volunteer for future trials.
- on The administration of psilocybin to healthy hallucinogen experienced volunteers Hello, I’m am 43 year old male living in oxford and suffered from depression and anxiety for 20 some years and I am a chronic suffer. I am very interested in participating on this type of drug trial. In my 20’s I have picked my own mushrooms once or…
- on Are you having a psychedelic experience in the near future? Hi All, I suffer from depression and anxiety and have done so for many years. After being placed on anti-depressants (again), I had a very bad response and the side effects of increased suicidal thoughts became unbearable. It was an everyday battle o…
- on Help us treat depression! Hello, I am wondering if you have completed your research into the use of psychedelics to aid with depression. I suffer with it myself and want to know if you are still looking for volunteers? I am currently 20 years old, turning 21 in September. I a…
- on The administration of psilocybin to healthy hallucinogen experienced volunteers Hi Drew Thanks for sharing. What was your method?