“Getting drugs to the brain can be so difficult, but fungi have already figured out how to do that,” said Hannah Reynolds, assistant professor of biology at Western Connecticut State University and co-author of the new study.
Magic mushrooms owe their mind-bending properties to the production of psilocybin, a brain-altering compound that mimics the neurotransmitter serotonin.
In 1970, national laws swept psilocybin into the category of banned Schedule I drugs, which also includes other psychoactive substances such as LSD, ecstasy (MDMA) and marijuana. Federal restrictions also extended to the use psilocybin in laboratories and clinical trials, which meant that for decades researchers have had extremely limited opportunity to explore its therapeutic potential.
But science is on the cusp of a psychedelic research renaissance, Slot said.
“It’s been a sea change,” he said.
Understanding what environmental conditions cause the natural evolution of mind-altering substances such as psilocybin opens up the possibility of discovering more of them and harnessing them for human use, she said.
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