In a recent study, researchers scanned and analyzed the brains of 15 participants who were injected with psilocybin and discovered that their consciousness had expanded significantly. Psilocybin is a hallucinogen that occurs in certain kinds of mushrooms that are most typically found in tropical rainforests in different parts of the United States, Mexico and South America. Brain scans of the volunteers were taken when they were injected with a placebo as well as during the psilocybin drug trip. The researchers found that the hallucinogen increased activity in the primitive region of the brain which is also activated during REM sleep, or when dreaming. Other areas of the brain also became active such as the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus.
The study also revealed that the participants under the influence of psilocybin had more uncoordinated activity and disjointed thinking in the areas of the brain that control self-consciousness. The evidence discovered from the psilocybin study combined with ongoing brain imaging research with LSD, another hallucinogen, appears to support the notion that the psychedelic state depends on unorganized activity in the ego system allowing disinhibition in the emotion system. This effect might explain why psychedelics have been used in some forms of psychotherapy.
The researchers began studying the effect of psychedelics on the brain in 2009 at the University of Bristol and currently continues at Cardiff University and Imperial College London. The scientists administering the experiment were also able to research the motifs in the emotion system of the brain and discovered that a wider range of motifs became apparent while the consciousness was expanded under the influence of psilocybin. Although the validity of the idea needs to be tested further, it could offer insight into the biological basis of consciousness expansion.
The scientists initiated the study to explore the theory that psychedelics enable easier communication across the brain and how the default-mode in the brain typically works to constrain this. The findings support the notion that psychedelics can temporarily diminish a person’s sense of being and personality. The study also suggests that being under the influence of psilocybin is similar to having a waking dream.
Another important aspect of the research is its potential to have an impact on potential treatments for depression and anxiety. Typically, most psychedelic users ingest hallucinogens only occasionally in an effort to explore the neurological effects because the drugs offer very little physical high. However, previous research has shown that there is a critical dynamic working in the brain at all times, keeping a balance in the amount of active networks. The study revealed that under the influence of psilocybin, the networks in the brain can become chaotic and unbalanced.
The importance of the study over one’s consciousness being expanded by psilocybin is the temporary ego dissolution that allows the expanse to occur and its effects psychologically on the brain. In conjunction with the data collected by researchers, and more experiments on the effects of hallucinogens on the brain, psychedelics might be able to offer insight into the ways psilocybin can be psychologically useful such as, helping patients experience emotional release or enhancing creative thinking by expanding the consciousness of one’s mind.
By Laura “Addi” Simmons