“I feel like I used to before the depression” — Participant from Imperial College of London Psilocybin Trial
Can a safe and therapeutic Magic Mushroom journey have a positive impact on the outlook of life of patients with depression?
If you are a psychedelic researcher like myself, then you heard of Robin Carhart-Harries who conducted many of our most relevant researches in the world of psilocybin. In this article, I want to speak a little about his research on how impactful psychedelics can be in treating depression.
The following video is available on the OPEN Foundation YouTube. In 2016 they organized in Amsterdam a conference that brought together many of the most relevant studies conducted around that year. Now in 2022, they are again organizing this conference, check them out:
Robin Carhart-Harris studies the brain effects of LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and MDMA. Most recently he has completed the first phase of a clinical trial looking at the potential of psilocybin to treat depression.OPEN Foundation YouTube page
Depressive Realism (or bias) is a trend shown by depressive patients of seeing the world through a pessimistic lens. This can be caused by delusion; a way to distort the perception of reality to fit a pessimistic bias. The use of psilocybin in the laboratory has been linked to the normalization of this depressive bias.
One way to go about investigating the reasons behind psilocybin’s capacity to normalize pessimism bias is to scan the brain of a psychonaut during a psychedelic experience triggered by the consumption of psilocybin and observe the brain for changes.
Ego Death Alleviates Depression
It is not every psychedelic experience that shows results for participants with depression. There is a specific type of mystical journey that is characterized by the occurrence of ‘ego-death’.
What part of the brain is connected with the ego-death?
Every day more studies highlight that the Default Brain Network may be connected with our sense of self and that the inactivity of this network may be associated with the occurrence of ego-death.
During the psychedelic experience induced with psilocybin, the parts of the brain associated with the Default Brain Network show a drastic reduction in activity, often creating the experience of ego-death.
The Default Brain Network and the Self
This network is also known as the Default Mode Network and we call it ‘Default’ because, during our daily lives, the DMN becomes more active when we are idle. I like to think of it as the ‘distracted’ brain, and often it is related to incessant chatter and obsessive rumination.
The compulsive activity of the Default Brain Network also has been associated with patients that scored higher in depression ratings.
The Default Mode is actually a super important part of our mental stability. This network is also responsible for keeping our routines in check, making sure that our pending matters stay afloat, and that we are not overlooking anything.
The mental activity generated by the Default Mode Network is usually stable and consistent day after day. This daily consistency in addition to the fact the DMN is the ‘standard’ mental voice, may contribute to the illusion that the Default Mode Network is the self.
Robin Carhart-Harris’s argument is that the Default Brain Network may be the source of what most adult people call the ‘ego’.
By analyzing the brain of participants who consumed Psilocybin, they noticed that there was a process of renewal happening within the structure of the brain, almost like a general mind reset. This process of rebirth has been reported time and time again by psychedelic subjects in research all over the world
One experience alone of psilocybin has shown immense beneficial results in the world of mental health, and I think that we are living in an exciting time where we can witness the rise of the sacred fungi medicine that slowly but surely makes its way into mainstream medicine.
In the talk there is a testimony of one of the participants:
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