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Magic mushrooms may be the latest in health food — huh?

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

A new study examines the benefits of 'shrooms

Magic 'shrooms may not just be for trippy hippies anymore, says a new study published in Human Brain Mapping. The researchers found that psilocybin — the thing that puts the "trip" in tripping — altered people's brains by allowing them to access a greater number of neural connections and do it faster.

But, it's not just fun and games and rainbow unicorns dancing on your ceiling. The researchers say this is an important finding as it could help people overcome emotional problems by facilitating therapy, combating insomnia and increasing creativity, among other things.

Researchers gave 15 subjects an infusion of psilocybin while 15 others got a placebo, and then they watched how their brains reacted. (Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that study!) They found that psilocybin increased the amount of activity in the regions of the brain normally activated during dreaming, and that psychedelics induce a state of “expanded” consciousness — meaning that the breadth of associations made by the brain and the ease by which they are visited is enhanced under the drugs.

"[The response] was characterized by unconstrained cognition and profound alterations in the perception of time, space and selfhood," they write.

This finding, taken with those from previous studies, shows that the drug can make someone less inhibited emotionally and, therefore, more open to working through their difficult feelings, which could be particularly helpful for those people whom traditional therapy has been unable to reach due to posttraumatic stress disorder or personality conflicts that block emotional release. In people who aren't struggling, opening up these pathways in the brain could lead to more creative thinking and a greater ability to relax and "let go."

The power of magic mushrooms may go even beyond that to have other medical uses. According to the scientists, "this may have implications for our understanding of the unconstrained, hyper-associative quality of consciousness in the psychedelic state."

Whoa, that's heavy, man.

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