But Officer, These Shrooms Are Medicinal

by Christopher Paul on January 26, 2012

From Boing Boing:

Did you see that episode of The Simpsons where Bart get’s a credit card and buys a new dog, Laddie? In the end, a person with blindness takes in his old dog, Santa’s Little Helper, and Bart tries to get him back. With Laddie abandoned, he joins the police and finds pot in the guy’s pocket. He claims its medicinal. And like marihuana, shrooms might have medicinal properties.

Psilocybin, the chemical that causes the hallucinogenic effects, is chemically similar to tryptophan which is a chemical precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Researchers noticed a reduction in blood flow to the brain after psilocybin was injected into ‘volunteers’ and given scan. With less blood going to the brain, it slows down. Because it slows down, doctors think it could be used to treat depression and other mood imbalances.

“Putting the brakes on this network could help to treat certain psychological conditions by opening the brain to new ways of thinking, researchers hope. Several studies have shown that psilocybin can change people’s attitudes for the better and may be useful for treating depression, a condition linked to too much activity in the default mode network.”

Reading around Wikipedia, I found out that psilocybin binds to some serotonin receptors in the brain which could be why it alters perception:

“Serotonin receptors are located in numerous parts of the brain, including the cerebral cortex, and are involved in a wide range of functions, including regulation of mood and motivation. The psychotomimetic (psychosis-mimicking) effects of psilocin can be blocked in a dose-dependent fashion by the 5-HT2A antagonist drugs ketanserin and risperidone. Although the 5-HT2A receptor is responsible for most of the effects of psilocin, various lines of evidence have shown that interactions with non-5-HT2A receptors also contribute to the subjective and behavioral effects of the drug. For example, psilocin indirectly increases the concentration of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the basal ganglia, and some psychomimetic symptoms of psilocin are reduced by haloperidol, an antagonist of dopamine receptor.”

Science is cool.

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