Mushrooms are consumed orally and the liver converts psilocybin into psilocin. Psilocin then binds to a subset of serotonin receptors in the brain. Psilocin activates pathways that ultimately cause the brain to communicate in non-ordinary ways, and decrease activity in the Default Mode Network (DMN), said Tyler.
The default mode network is not a physical part of the brain, but a system of connected regions that plays a role in introspective activities. Daydreaming, thinking about oneself or others, or ruminating on the past or future are all mental processes overseen by the DMN.
By inhibiting the DMN, psychedelics increase integration across all of the brain, allowing more fluid forms of thinking to overcome entrenched, repetitive thought patterns. Experts have theorized that the inhibition of the DMN dissolves ego boundaries, reducing the feeling that the “self” is distinct from others and the surrounding environment. New sensory inputs, perceptions, and experiences can then enter the individual’s awareness.
“When the DMN is turned down, an individual’s sense of self begins to dissolve, often freeing people—at least temporarily—from negative thought loops,” explained Tyler.
Psilocin also increases both neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Neurogenesis refers to the creation of new neurons and connections in the hippocampus of the brain, and neuroplasticity is the process of how the brain changes and is rewired in response to new stimuli and experiences.
Neurogenesis is a fundamental aspect of neuroplasticity, with new brain cells created when we learn something new or engage in activities that stimulate our brain. In healthy brains, neurogenesis occurs throughout life, but can be impaired by factors such as a poor diet, alcohol, insufficient sleep, stress and mental illness.
Many psychedelic drugs increase both neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Research has shown that psychedelics increase the growth and density of neurons in the brain and activate new neural pathways safely, a feat few compounds are capable of achieving.
Enhanced neurogenesis and neuroplasticity have been linked to improved mental health. Experts have pointed out that psychedelics may be ideally positioned to treat psychiatric disorders by stimulating connectivity and integration across the brain, and boosting neurogenesis.