Nutt’s Psilocybin Research: Overcoming Folk Psychology

Of course I had heard the folk psychology of mind expansion before, I thought, as I took my first chew on what seemed to be a rather unappetising looking rotten straw. But that began during the flush of youth, before one could have foreseen the tragedy of cognition whittling away at cherished ideas. Now, as the research of Professor David Nutt begins to fully resonate through the spectrum of open minds, drug takers or not, he may turn out doing more for psychoactive substances than Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley and PG Tips combined.

We are now finding evidence of the depressant action of psilocybin on specific brain regions. There’s nothing quite like actual data and results to begin to prise open notoriously clamped-shut public opinion. What could possibly be more progressive than a live debate on the issue of the use of street drugs in medicinal treatment on channel 4? Jon Snow leading the way in scattergun fashion, SAS soldiers having bad trips, Christians abandoning all reference to the lord in deference to the psychoactive properties of MDMA. It’s as if the War on Drugs took a sabbatical and the Germans and the English joined together to  play football against the backdrop of inarticulate guns early one Christmas Eve. Or, at least, it was until the Daily Mail came out the following day.

The area of interest for this psilocybin (magic ingredient in ‘magic mushroom’) research is the limbic system, located within the cerebral cortex. Included within the limbic system is the hypothalamus, anterior and posterior cingulate cortices, each playing a separate role with (amongst other things) emotional responses and autonomic nervous functions. Desynchronization of the limbic system, specifically the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices, as linked to new discoveries from David Nutt’s research, seems to suggest how the psychoactive properties of psilocybin allow for deluges of sensory information during trips.

One can almost hear the creak of the smirk appearing across Aldous Huxley’s crumbling jowls as we read on. An analogy to the freedom of information looms dangerously close to this idea; ‘constrict the regulator and the amount of possible information available increases exponentially’. As a treatment for depression psilocybin seems, on the surface at least, counterintuitive. Depression can be reduced to, amongst other things, a hyperactive medial prefrontal cortex. The results from Nutt’s work suggest that a reduction in activity within the limbic system, as caused by psilocybin, helps to alleviate the pessimistic outlook associated with depression. Within this observation the corollary of reduced blood flow to the hypothalamus gives rise to the narrative observation of a soothing of the symptoms of cluster headaches, originating, as they do, within the same system. However, this is yet to proven in clinical tests.

With all areas of emotional control the gaze of mental illness can never be far from due consideration.  As has been discovered in schizophrenics, the anterior cingulated cortex is reduced in size, due to either damage or abnormalities during brain development. Reflection on this issue should allow one to come to the conclusion that chronic depression of such regions could lead to problems with the doormen guarding the doors of perception. It is obviously acceptable, however, to let oneself go from time to time providing you make the journey back safely.

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8 Responses

  1. Tyler says:

    “It is obviously acceptable, however, to let oneself go from time to time providing you make the journey back safely.”

    I love this.

    • Elias says:

      Forgive me but could you expand on it? Does this statement mean “If you venture down the rabbit hole, it’s only good if you return from wonderland without anything that may permanently traumatize you while you are there?”

      • Jim says:

        Elias – The quoted line you wish me to expand on is one of those statements that is hard to define adequately for the individual.This is means that it should be left as a romantic reflection on the experiences as a whole. If I do try and make it applicable to you personally i will undoubtedly fail. For example, I’ve had trips of benefit that were traumatic at the time, only for the end to provide a release or discovery of something I didn’t know I had. My main thought in regards to the quoted line would be to try and guard against ‘senseless’ usage.Whereby unregulated trips into oblivion for an inexperienced user will (close to) always be a false economy and could lead to complications further down the road. In short; treat the substance with respect and it will by-and-large be of benefit; abuse will create just as many problems as it will solve.

        • Elias says:

          Jim- My initial post/question in retrospect wasn’t thought through entirely. lol it was really late and I believe I was looking for a quick answer to a question I in deed simply needed more time to reflect on (perhaps after some good sleep lol). Anyway, now that I am more awake and aware I will just share a reply to your response.
          What if I told you every single word you just spoke resonated with me completely? I too have been fortunate enough to indulge with this substance, and every trip has been a remarkable and profound experience (like you, even the bad trips carried heavy and valuable lessons). I understand exactly what you mean. From the difficulty of defining that statements meaning to any individual (with respect to the overall experience), to respecting the substance and letting it show one the light. The context in which your response was presented to me is in fact the same context I provide to other strangers on the net whenever I talk about this stuff. I understand why you would assume you would fail in explaining the meaning of that statement in relation to me personally, but I assure you, i have been there too. In the solitude of the woods, with the trees swaying back and forth, taking a stroll inside my own mind. What’s great about this is you know exactly what I mean. We have both been in that same “place”. Cheers to that.

  2. Jacob says:

    This is incredible work. As a psychonaut, it is always interesting to see the analogous scientific work being done concerning a substance that is so personally enriching and expanding.

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