How do magic mushrooms and truffles affect the brain?
The psychoactive effects come from the psilocin and psilocybin. When psilocybin is eaten, it is converted to psilocin. These substances are very similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT), so they fit into certain serotonin receptors. Especially the 5-HT2a receptor is important. Psilocin then pretends to be serotonin and affects communication between cells. Certain areas in the brain will then work differently.
Psychedelics, including psilocin, are still being researched. Knowledge about how these substances work in the brain therefore changes frequently. Below are some ideas that are currently known.
Several studies have found that general brain activity does not increase after taking psychedelics such as psilocin, but that there is more activity between the different brain regions. This renewed communication between brain areas provides the opportunity to break through established communication and patterns.
The thalamus acts like a filter in the brain. It only lets through information (sensory stimuli) that it finds relevant. If you use a psychedelic, that filter works differently. It lets more stimuli through. Colors become brighter, the world becomes more overwhelming, details that you normally don’t notice can suddenly become very interesting.
Psychedelics change the way your visual information is processed. For example, this can make the wall appear to be breathing. And if there is already some movement, it is reinforced, think of the wind in the trees. When you are tripping, it looks extra impressive.
Your brain is always trying to recognize as many patterns as possible in the environment. This has the advantage that you used to be able to recognize a lion among the grass on the savannah, for example. When you are tripping, everything looks a bit different and your brain tries to recognize patterns in it. An irregular structure, such as a carpet or floor covering, is then a major challenge for your brain to see patterns. If you concentrate on that, you can suddenly see all kinds of patterns that are not there sober.