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    Dr.Paddo - Wednesday 30 February 2022

    What is the effect of psychedelics on the brain?

    It is now known that by using psychedelics you not only trip, but that a lot more happens in the brain. Mind-altering drugs such as psilocybin from magic mushrooms, LSD and DMT cause hallucinations and affect thinking, but can also have positive health effects. Recently, these drugs have even been used for various psychological disorders. What exactly is the effect of psychedelics on the brain and what does this mean to us?

     

    Research on the brain

    It is striking that we know an awful lot about the world around us, but that the brain is still so incomprehensible and mysterious. Our own brain, which enables us to fantasize, understand and form hypotheses, is largely undiscovered territory. Fortunately, a lot of research is still being done, also into the effect of psychedelics on the brain.

     

    The interest in mind-altering drugs is therefore growing. There is growing evidence that substances such as psilocybin, LSD and DMT can have positive effects on the brain. To understand what these effects are, it is also useful to learn more about the structure of the brain. You can read more about this below.

     

    The Default Mode Network

    The brain is an organ, but it is important to understand that this gray matter is made up of different areas. Each area has its own specialization and deals with specific tasks. All these areas are interconnected and thus form different networks. One such network is the Default Mode Network (DMN). The DMN  becomes active mainly when we are resting, when we are brooding, thinking about the past or the future or with talking to ourselves. The moment we start doing something else, for which we need our full attention, the DMN becomes less active and other networks come into action.

     

    When the DMN is activated, you are therefore engaged in introspection and self-reflection. This network is related to the formation of one's own identity, when you conduct an inner dialogue or have self-criticism. It is an essential aspect for a stable self-image, for the fact that you know that you are you. It is also the basis for the way we understand and think about the world around us. This is where your deepest beliefs about yourself reside, which form programs in the subconscious.

     

    The dark side of the Default Mode Network

    In principle, the DMN is therefore necessary to be an individual. But problems can arise if the aforementioned beliefs and programs start to limit you. For example, you may have always been told that you are stupid, not worthy of love, or that you cannot live without weed or candy.

     

    This will become an ingrained program and you will see the associated behaviors and thoughts as normal. This can lead to addictions, compulsive disorders and depression. In that case, the DMN can ensure that you no longer have any control over your thoughts and beliefs. Brain research shows that the Default Mode Network is much more active in such mental illnesses than with people who are not bothered by this.

    The effect of psychedelics on the brain

    As more scientists see the potential of psychedelics, more studies are being set up to find out exactly what their effect is on the brain. One such center is the Center for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London. Research shows that mind-altering drugs, such as psilocybin, greatly reducing the activity of the DMN, even to the point that it is almost inactive . The connections that normally run through this network are rerouted. Brain areas that are not used for this under normal circumstances, are now used for this.

     

    The effect of psychedelics on the brain is that it influences how you experience your ego. During a trip, the ego can even completely disappear (the so-called ego-death). It may prompt you to change your beliefs about the world. Your senses also work differently because you hallucinate. It can seem like you suddenly see the world in a fresh, new way. Analyze , logical thinking, everything is temporarily on the back burner.

     

    The Imperial College research shows that a dose of LSD, psilocybin or DMT can have a long-lasting effect on the psyche. People say they can still notice the effects years later. They feel more connected with people, with nature, are open to new ideas and insights, and their capacity for empathy has increased. However, the main effects were that the participants suffered less from anxiety, addictions and depression. Because the DMN was partially switched off during the trip, rigid thinking patterns could be broken. The research shows that this effect persists long after taking the psychedelic.

     

    Research on mini-brains

    In Brazil too, a special research  carried out to find out the effect of psychedelics on the brain. Instead of using test subjects, cultured human mini-brains (these are called cerebral organoids) were used. This mini-brain was exposed to 5-MeO-DMT, the substance contained in ayahuasca, among other things. The scientists found that the drugs caused changes in the expression of more than a thousand proteins.

     

    Notably, proteins associated with inflammation and brain injury were less active. Proteins that play a role in the formation of new compounds were actually more expressed when 5-MeO-DMT was administered. So it seems that the drug can play a protective role and make our brain more flexible.

     

    It is a fascinating area of ​​research and great strides have already been made. However, it is important to be careful with conclusions. The Brazilian research was done on artificially grown mini-brains. An active human brain of normal size is of course something else. But the fact remains that the effect of psychedelics on the brain is worth investigating. We can benefit greatly from using psychedelics, such as mescaline cacti or magic truffles. If not in a normal dose, then in a microdose.

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