In the past year or two, we have been getting news alerts about groundbreaking research about the potential for magic mushrooms nearly every week. It can be difficult to be hopeful because we haven’t seen any real progress towards allowing them to be legal or decriminalized. Have no fear! A team of researchers at Yale University is here! Their newest findings were published in Neuron in July of 2021. 
The distinct link between psilocybin and the road to recovery from depression is a tale as old as time, being explored and researched for decades. However, the topic of treating a mental illness with a psychoactive drug is still in heated debates throughout various scientific communities. Most argue that it is due to the fact of not knowing the exact mechanics of how the drug interacts with a depressed brain.
The Yale research team led by Alex Kwan helps bring clarity to this issue and questions that are entangled in it. Kwan, who is an associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, studied the effects of psilocybin in the brain of mice.
He found that giving a single dose to the mouse showed an immediate and long-lasting boost to the connections between neurons inside the brain. Kwan says, “We not only saw a 10% increase in the number of neuronal connections, but also they were on average about 10% larger, so the connections were stronger as well.”
It is widely thought that repairing the neural connections in the brains of people who are suffering from depression may help them in their healing process. People who are suffering from depression or chronic stress typically have a lower level of neural connectivity. So, when looking at psilocybin and depression on a neurological level there seems to be a great opportunity for treatment.
When looking at neurons under a microscope you can see a distinct feature called the dendritic spine. The spine is a protrusion on the neuron that is responsible for receiving synaptic input. Or to put into layman’s terms, this part of the neuron allows the neuron to ‘fire’. When these protrusions were looked at in the mice who were administered the psilocybin there were a number of changes observed by Kwan and his team. Most notably was the improvement of the stress-related behavioral deficit that was there before.
- Reduced stress
- Enhanced mood
- Emotional stability
- Mindfulness and presence
- Openness and self-forgiveness
- Increased empathy and sociability
- Increased sense of connection to others
- Relief from depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, PTSD
Summing things up
We have discussed a myriad of different topics today, before we forget them all — let’s review! Some of us have known for a long time the many benefits of psilocybin for treating a mental illness like depression, but now science is catching on! Alex Kwan and his team at Yale released a new study showing the molecular change on neurons after psilocybin was administered. This study brought newfound hope and excitement to the legitimacy of using magic mushrooms as an alternative medicine.
Golden teachers and African Transkei are some of the best mushroom strains out there, and remember: microdosing is often the best route to take when dealing with anxiety, depression, or mental illnesses.
There were a few other finds that are worthy of mentioning, the psilocybin actually increased the spine density and size in frontal cortical pyramidal cells. The dendritic spine was still showing the psilocybin-evoked structural remodeling after a month of the injection. Along with the new rewiring and shaping, there was a noted elevation in the excitatory neurotransmission. If none of that made sense to you, don’t worry. Essentially—the part of the neuron that ‘fires’ grew bigger and stronger even after a month had passed since the treatment.
“It was a real surprise to see such enduring changes from just one dose of psilocybin,” said Kwan.
Although we have seen countless studies come out about the potential of psilocybin, this one feels promising and exciting! Being able to see the effects at such a molecular level shows that it truly is helping to rewire and shape our brains. On top of that, it’s Yale! One of the most renowned educational institutions in the world is giving psychonauts a nod of agreement to the benefit of magic mushrooms beyond recreational usage. There are still many things we can discover and learn about psilocybin, but it’s pretty cool to know that the scientific community is seeing the potential as well.
If you don’t consider yourself a psychonaut— but are interested in the various strains that mushrooms have to offer we are going to review a few! One of the most popular varieties on the market is ‘African Transkei.’  These mushrooms are small to medium in size and have twisted and gnarled stems. Fun fact: they naturally grow in shade near cow dung!
Another golden strain of mushrooms is the ‘golden teachers,’ a definite favourite for many mushroom users!  As you probably guessed, they are golden in colour on their caps and cultivate immense shamanic effects. Most users find that the insights gained on these mushrooms allow them a greater understanding of themselves and the universe.
When scientists and mushroom lovers are talking about the potential of psilocybin to help with illnesses like depression, it’s not the quantity people would take if using them for recreational use. Instead, we are talking about microdosing, microdosing is when the user takes a very small portion of the drug to feel its psychological effects without getting all of the other undesirable effects. From a study published in 2019 one author states, “While full-dose therapies include perception-distorting properties, microdosing may provide complementary clinical benefits using lower-risk, non-hallucinogenic doses.” 
There are plenty of benefits to microdosing mushrooms including a specialized protein that enables new neurological connections, BDNF.  According to some studies these new connections brings an assortment of benefits: