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New study discovers biological basis for magic mushroom 'mind expansion'
Date:7/2/2014

the possibility that psilocybin may help alleviate symptoms of depression by allowing patients to change their rigidly pessimistic patterns of thinking. Psychedelics were used for therapeutic purposes in the 1950's and 1960's but now we are finally beginning to understand their action in the brain and how this can inform how to put them to good use."

The data was originally collected at Imperial College London in 2012 by a research group led by Dr. Carhart-Harris and Professor David Nutt from the Department of Medicine, Imperial College London. Initial results revealed a variety of changes in the brain associated with drug intake. To explore the data further Dr. Carhart-Harris recruited specialists in the mathematical modelling of brain networks, Professor Dante Chialvo and Dr Enzo Tagliazucchi to investigate how psilocybin alters brain activity to produce its unusual psychological effects.

As part of the new study, the researchers applied a measure called entropy. This was originally developed by physicists to quantify lost energy in mechanical systems, such as a steam engine, but entropy can also be used to measure the range or randomness of a system. For the first time, researchers computed the level of entropy for different networks in the brain during the psychedelic state. This revealed a remarkable increase in entropy in the more primitive network, indicating there was an increased number of patterns of activity that were possible under the influence of psilocybin. It seemed the volunteers had a much larger range of potential brain states that were available to them, which may be the biophysical counterpart of 'mind expansion' reported by users of psychedelic drugs.

Previous research has suggested that there may be an optimal number of dynamic networks active in the brain, neither too many nor too few. This may provide evolutionary advantages in terms of optimizing the balance between the stability and flexibility of consciousness.
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Contact: Franca Davenport
f.davenport@imperial.ac.uk
44-020-759-43415
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert

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