Can Microdosing Magic Mushrooms Boost Creativity?

The use of very small doses of magic mushrooms and psychedelic truffles can lead to a more open state of thinking, resulting in more novel, creative ideas, according to a new study at Leiden University in The Netherlands.

“Microdosing” in this manner may allow individuals to experience the creative benefits of psychedelic drugs without the risk of the so-called “bad trips” that can occur with high doses of such substances, say the researchers.

Taking a tiny fraction of a normal dose of psychedelic substances is becoming a trend in some professional circles because it is believed to stimulate brain function and enhance mental flexibility and creativity. However, scientific research that moves away from anecdotal evidence is still rare.

The study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, is the first of its kind to experimentally investigate the cognitive-enhancing effects of microdosing on a person’s brain function within a natural setting.

In this study, the researchers investigated how a microdose of a psychedelic substance affected the cognitive brain function of 36 people who were present at an event organized by the Psychedelic Society of The Netherlands.

During the experimental phase, participants were given three tasks to complete before and after they took on average 0.37 grams of dried truffles. The tests evaluated the participants’ convergent thinking (the identification of a single solution to a problem), their fluid intelligence (the capacity to reason and solve new problems) and their divergent thinking (the ability to recognize many possible solutions).

Afterwards, the researchers analyzed the active substances present in the truffles consumed by participants.

The results show that, after taking the microdose of truffles, the participants’ convergent thinking abilities improved. Participants also shared more ideas about how to solve a given task, and were more fluent, flexible and original in the possibilities they presented. Microdosing with psychedelic substances therefore improved the participants’ divergent and convergent thinking.

These findings support previous studies showing that high doses of psychedelics can enhance creative performance. The fact that participants’ intelligence scores and general analytical skills did not change suggests that the effect of the truffles is rather selective, and more to the benefit of a person’s creative abilities.

“Taken together, our results suggest that consuming a microdose of truffles allowed participants to create more out-of-the-box alternative solutions for a problem, thus providing preliminary support for the assumption that microdosing improves divergent thinking,” says study leader Luisa Prochazkova of Leiden University.

“Moreover, we also observed an improvement in convergent thinking, that is, increased performance on a task that requires the convergence on one single correct or best solution.”

Prochazkova hopes the new results will encourage more research into the beneficial effects of microdosing psychedelics.

“Apart from its benefits as a potential cognitive enhancement technique, microdosing could be further investigated for its therapeutic efficacy to help individuals who suffer from rigid thought patterns or behavior such as individuals with depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder,” she says.

Source: Springer

Psychedelic Drugs Show Promise for Treating Anxiety, Depression, PTSD

New findings add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that psychedelic drugs may be effective at treating a variety of psychological disorders, including depression, social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and could one day be prescribed to patients.

The research was presented recently at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting and included studies on the use of LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), MDMA (ecstacy) and ayahuasca (used by indigenous Amazonian people for spiritual ceremonies).

After the discovery of LSD in the 1940s, American researchers began studying hallucinogens for their potential healing benefits, but this research mostly came to a halt after psychedelics were outlawed in the late 1960s.

A shift may be coming soon, however, as MDMA is beginning its third and final phase of clinical trials in an effort to win Food and Drug Administration approval for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, said Adam Snider, MA, of Alliant International University Los Angeles, and co-chair of the symposium.

“Combined with psychotherapy, some psychedelic drugs like MDMA, psilocybin and ayahuasca may improve symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Cristina L. Magalhaes, PhD, of Alliant International University Los Angeles, and co-chair of a symposium on psychedelics and psychotherapy.

“More research and discussion are needed to understand the possible benefits of these drugs, and psychologists can help navigate the clinical, ethical and cultural issues related to their use.”

Findings from another study suggest that symptoms of social anxiety in adults with autism may be treatable with a combination of psychotherapy and MDMA. Twelve autistic adults with moderate to severe social anxiety who were given two treatments of pure MDMA, plus ongoing therapy, showed significant and long-lasting reductions in their symptoms.

“Social anxiety is prevalent in autistic adults and few treatment options have been shown to be effective,” said Alicia Danforth, PhD, of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the HarborUCLA Medical Center, who conducted the study. “The positive effects of using MDMA and therapy lasted months, or even years, for most of the research volunteers.”

Other research presented at the meeting shows how LSD, psilocybin and ayahuasca may benefit people with anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Adele Lafrance, PhD, of Laurentian University, discussed a study of 159 participants who reported on their past use of hallucinogens, level of spirituality and relationship with their emotions. Hallucinogen use was associated with greater levels of spirituality, which led to improved emotional stability and fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression and disordered eating.

“This study reinforces the need for the psychological field to consider a larger role for spirituality in the context of mainstream treatment because spiritual growth and a connection to something greater than the self can be fostered,” said Lafrance.

One study suggests that ayahuasca may help relieve depression and addiction, as well as assist people in coping with trauma. “We found that ayahuasca also fostered an increase in generosity, spiritual connection and altruism,” said Clancy Cavnar, PhD, with Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos.

In addition, for people suffering from life-threatening cancer, psilocybin may offer significant and long-lasting reductions in anxiety and distress.

When combined with psychotherapy, psilocybin helped 13 study participants grapple with loss and existential distress. It also helped the participants reconcile their feelings about death as nearly all participants reported that they developed a new understanding of dying, according to Gabby Agin-Liebes, BA, of Palo Alto University, who conducted the research.

“Participants made spiritual or religious interpretations of their experience and the psilocybin treatment helped facilitate a reconnection to life, greater mindfulness and presence, and gave them more confidence when faced with cancer recurrence,” said Agin-Liebes.

Source: American Psychological Association