The Beatles wrote songs about them and Aldous Huxley said they could be “extremely good for anybody with fixed ideas”. Now scientists are beginning to understand exactly what happens to our brain under the influence of psychedelic drugs, revealing intriguing insights into their well-observed link to creativity.
In a new analysis of a study which saw 15 volunteers undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans while under the influence of psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, scientists have discovered that the patterns of activity seen in their brains bore “fascinating” similarities to those seen when dreaming.
The researchers found that while activity in parts of the brain responsible for high level thinking such as planning and analysing was “disjointed and uncoordinated”, activity in more primitive areas of the brain associated with emotional thinking was much more pronounced.
They also saw that different areas of the brain were able to communicate in “novel” ways, giving the study volunteers a much larger range of potential brain states: something the researchers said could be a physical counterpart to the sensation of “mind expansion” often reported by users of psychedelics such as magic mushrooms, LSD and mescaline.