How magic shrooms affect your brain

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: This is the map of a typical human brain, and this is the map of a brain on psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms. All those new connections you can see don’t just make people trip. They’re also the reason that psilocybin is one of today’s most talked-about drugs in certain medical circles. Worldwide, more than 180 species of mushrooms produce psilocybin, likely as a defense strategy. Scientists believe that psilocybin may dampen the appetite of predatory insects like ants so that they feel full long before eating their way through the entire mushroom. Humans, on the other hand, well, they trip.

Johnson: Psilocybin is a so-called classic psychedelic, so it’s in the same category as drugs like LSD and works in the brain in basically the same way.

Narrator: When you take psilocybin, your gut converts it into another chemical, known as psilocin, which binds to serotonin receptors called 2A, and experts think that’s what triggers what they call neuronal avalanching. It’s essentially a domino effect of different changes in the brain. You’ve got increased activity in the visual cortex, which leads to changes in your perception, and then decreased network activity in the default mode network, which leads to a loss of ego.

Johnson: And that may be why people often report at high doses a profound sense of unity, transcending beyond themselves.

Narrator: But perhaps most importantly, psilocybin increases connectivity among different regions of the brain.

Johnson: Because of that receptor activation, there is a profound change in the way that different areas of the brain synchronize with each other.

Narrator: Think of it like an orchestra. Normally, the brain has different musical groups that each play independently.

Johnson: A sextet there, here’s a quartet there. This one’s playing jazz. This one’s classical, and a number of other ones.

Narrator: But once psilocybin enters, it’s like you suddenly have a conductor.

Johnson: So there is this communication between areas that are normally kind of compartmentalized and doing their own thing.

Narrator: Scientists believe that it’s a combination of these effects that make psilocybin so useful for combating depression and addiction. When new areas in the brain start talking to each other, for example, you might have new insights into old problems. And that’s why some experts describe tripping as a condensed version of talk therapy. And then dissolving your ego, Johnson says…

Johnson: Can be profoundly healing.

Narrator: And there’s actually an increasing amount of research to prove it. In two studies published in 2016, researchers gave cancer patients with depression a large dose of psilocybin, and even six months later, at least 80% of them showed significant decreases in depressed mood. And research on addiction is equally promising. In a study led by Johnson, 15 volunteers took psilocybin to quit smoking, and after six months, 80% of them had kicked the habit, compared to a rate of about 35% for the drug varenicline, which is widely considered the best smoking-cessation drug out there. Yet despite these results, psilocybin is still listed as a Schedule I drug, a category reserved for compounds that have no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Now, taking magic mushrooms recreationally does come with some risks.

Johnson: So a dramatic example would be driving under the influence of psilocybin or using it in a way that interferes with your job, or your family relations, or your schoolwork, for example.

Narrator: But as far as scientists know, long-term use doesn’t damage the brain in the way that other drugs can, and according to at least one study, it’s actually the safest drug out there. In 2018, for example, just 0.3% of people who reported taking them needed medical emergency treatment, compared to 0.9% for ecstasy and 1.3% for alcohol. Taken altogether, that’s why some states across the country have campaigned to decriminalize psilocybin, including Denver, which, in May of 2019, became the first ever to succeed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in May 2019.

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A landmark study shows the main compound in magic mushrooms could rival a leading depression drug

Psilocybin in pill form
Psilocybin in pill form

  • Imperial College London scientists just published a report on how psychedelics could treat depression.
  • The study pits psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, against the depression drug escitalopram.
  • Reduction in depression occurred more quickly with psilocybin, but the differences were not significant.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In recent years, research into the use of psychedelics for the treatment of mental-health illnesses has begun to thrive.

Private companies focused on developing psychedelics-based medications for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration have raised hundreds of millions of dollars over the past year and several have gone public, garnering valuations of more than $1 billion.

Meanwhile, half a dozen prestigious universities in the US and Europe have established centers dedicated to research on psychedelics, a trend fueled by wealthy donors interested in the potential medical benefits of the substances.

But medical research into these mind-altering compounds is still nascent. Psychedelic research was virtually barred for decades and most academic institutions have only recently restarted studies testing psychedelic compounds in people.

That research is beginning to deliver results. On Wednesday, scientists published a milestone report that directly compares psilocybin, the active compound found in magic mushrooms, with the depression drug Lexapro, or escitalopram.

A compound found in magic mushrooms works as well as a major depression pill

The study, in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, shows that psilocybin works about as well as escitalopram to treat patients with moderate or severe major depressive disorder.

Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, led the research team.

He told Insider that while he believes the findings support the potential of psilocybin to be an improvement on current antidepressants, they are also a reality check on what he called “a kind of unbridled optimism about psychedelic therapy” driven by for-profit psychedelics companies and investors.

He added that the findings in the report are consistent with previous studies on the effectiveness of psilocybin as a depression treatment.

Dr. Robin Cahart Harris, head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London
Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London

The mid-stage trial was small, with just 59 participants, limiting scientists’ ability to draw strong conclusions. About half the volunteers were treated with psilocybin and the other half received escitalopram. All patients received psychological support throughout the trial.

Researchers found that although the reduction in depression occurred more quickly and in “greater magnitude” with psilocybin, the differences between the two treatments was not significant.

“Larger and longer trials are needed to compare psilocybin with established treatments for depression,” the article said.

Companies like Compass Pathways, which is the furthest along in testing psilocybin in clinical trials in the for-profit world, have focused on psilocybin as a treatment for treatment-resistant depression (TRD), or depression that hasn’t improved with at least two forms of treatment.

Psilodep psychedelic research at Imperial College London
Psychedelic research at Imperial College London

Psilocybin could take a slice of a $100 billion market

Imperial’s study works to provide the academic foundation to show psilocybin’s effects on more moderate forms of depression.

“What’s on the table now is the prospect that psilocybin therapy could be an alternative to SSRIs, if it’s at least as good,” Carhart-Harris said. “What we’re showing is that people could consider psilocybin therapy earlier on in the course of a depression.”

Psilocybin has in recent years been seen as a potential disruptor to the market for depression treatments. Current treatment options don’t work for some patients and can take a long time to fully work. Canaccord Genuity has estimated that psychedelic-based medicines focused on mental health could take part in what could soon become a $100 billion market.

Psilocybe cyanescens, a species of psychedelic mushrooms
Psilocybe cyanescens, a species of psychedelic mushrooms

Carhart-Harris said that the results of the study are framed in a conservative way in the journal, but he emphasized that they’re impressive. He pointed to some of the study’s secondary findings, such as the fact that about 57% of patients who received psilocybin saw their depression go into remission, while that occurred in about a quarter of patients who received escitalopram.

“To say it in a conservative way, psilocybin therapy looks at least as good as the leading treatments for depression,” Carhart-Harris said. “What you see in the paper is a very conservative framing but when you look a little bit closer under the hood, you realize it’s pretty impressive findings.”

If the trial were longer, researchers say patients who received escitalopram may have seen better efficacy

Escitalopram takes several weeks to show its full effect and the researcher note in the article that if the trial had been longer than six weeks, patients who received escitalopram may have done better.

Carhart-Harris said the fact that psilocybin seems to work faster than existing depression drugs could be a noteworthy benefit of the psychedelic.

“We’ve become so accustomed to this principle that you have to wait a couple of months for your SSRI to work and that’s not good enough,” he said. “Many people with depression are seriously considering taking their own lives and you tell them you have to wait two months to see any improvements. It’s not a great message yet we’re just accepting that.”

Magic mushrooms psychedelic psilocybin
Psilocybin mushrooms

Scientists say that more and bigger trials are needed

The next logical step for psilocybin for depression research is a late-stage trial involving more people. Carhart-Harris says that this is where for-profit and nonprofit entities step up to the plate.

Compass Pathways and the Usona Institute, a non-profit focused on psychedelic research, are furthest along in clinical trials of the compound. Both are in phase II trials, which involves testing the treatment in up to several hundred patients.

A smattering of other psychedelics companies are also in pre-clinical or early stage research around psilocybin

Different political initiatives – like Measure 109 in Oregon, which created a regulated therapeutic psilocybin program – also provide a route to providing psilocybin therapy to patients with depression. This offers an alternative to seeking approval from the FDA.

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From the COVID-19 panic to the Dutch Tulip mania in 1637, here are 10 of the worst stock market crashes in history

market crash
CHICAGO – SEPTEMBER 29: Jeff Linforth stands at the Chicago Board of Trade signal offers in the Standard & Poors stock index futures pit near the open of trading September 29, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Stocks fell at the open as traders waited for Congress to vote on the $700 billion plan to rescue troubled financial companies. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • For as long as there have been financial markets, there have been market crashes.
  • The March 2020 market crash – driven by the rapid spread of coronavirus around the world – is just the latest in a long line of panics over hundreds of centuries.
  • From the infamous Tulip Panic of the 17th century, to the 2008 financial crisis, Markets Insider decided to round up a handful of the most notable and interesting crashes in market history.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For as long as there have been financial markets, there have been market crashes.

The March 2020 market crash – driven by the rapid spread of coronavirus around the world – is just the latest in a long line of panics throughout the hundreds of centuries that have roiled markets, crashed economies, and led to financial ruin for countless people.

Generally driven by investor panic and loss of confidence in the markets, often after a period of excitement and speculation, market panics are features of the financial and economic system around the world.

From the infamous Tulip Panic of the 17th century, to the 2008 financial crisis, Markets Insider decided to round up a handful of the most notable and interesting crashes in market history. Check them out below.

Covid-19 Market Crash, 2020

GettyImages 1211234256

The novel coronavirus outbreak not only led to a global health crisis, but also the most recent global financial recession beginning on February 20.

Although the biggest impact of the crash was initially felt in China, it quickly spread to the rest of the world as the virus spread, forcing lockdowns and plunging economic activity around the globe.

The US officially entered recession, and virtually every other economy around the world is set to follow.

Markets were initially stunned, and on March 16, the S&P 500 reported its steepest drop since 1987 as many businesses were forced to shut down and travel restrictions were set in place. The market’s reaction was sharp but short-lived, and by June, stocks were back to their pre-crash levels.

Oil Price Crash, 2020

GettyImages 1211427607

US oil prices went into negative territory for the first time in history on April 20, 2020 as the commodity faced a staggering drop in demand during the coronavirus pandemic as travel virtually ceased.

As the May futures contract for oil expired, many traders were faced with taking delivery of physical oil, so were forced into panic selling, which in turn pushed the commodity below zero.

In March, oil producers cartel OPEC held discussions to reinforce production cuts amongst allies from 2.1 million barrels per day to 3.6 million bpd and to continue this until the end of 2021.

Russia disagreed and a price war was launched by OPEC’s top trading member Saudi Arabia to fight for a greater market share. 

Oil lost almost a third of its value with Brent crude crashing 24% to $33.36 and US oil dropping 34% to $27.34.

China’s Stock Market Crash, 2015

GettyImages 1098090132

Over three weeks in June 2015, fear of a market seizure and growing financial risks across the country caused chaotic panic selling which erased over $3 trillion in the value of Mainland shares.

Possible triggers of the market crash include a surprise devaluation in the Chinese yuan and a weakened outlook for China’s growth, which then put pressure on emerging economies that relied on China for growth.

The crash’s worst day was on June 12, when the Shanghai stock index lost about a third of its value, while losses were even more pronounced in the smaller Shenzhen Composite. 

Source: CNN

Global Financial Crisis, 2008

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Known to be the worst crash since the Great Depression, the 2008 financial crisis grew out of deregulation in the financial industry that eventually led to the inflation of an enormous housing bubble.

Like all bubbles, it eventually popped, as housing supply overtook demand and house prices fell, making it difficult for homeowners to meet their mortgage obligations, leading to a wave of defaults 

The crisis worsened when investment bank Lehman Brothers — which was highly exposed to the sub-prime market — collapsed. Numerous other lenders were bailed out by governments around the world, and markets crashed, before the global economy spiralled into recession.

Source: The Economist

The Dot-com Bubble, 1990’s

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This bubble was fueled by investments into tech-based companies during a bullish market in the late 1990s.

By the end of 2001, dozens of companies had gone bust, and the share prices of tech giants like Cisco and Intel plunged.

Over $7 trillion in market value was destroyed, and equities entered a bear market.

It took the tech-heavy Nasdaq fifteen years up to April 23, 2015 to regain its dot-com peak. 

Source: Grin

The Asian Financial Crisis, 1997

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With its origins in Thailand, a severe financial crisis struck many Asian countries in late 1997.

Foreign investors were worried that Thailand’s debt was rising too rapidly when Bangkok unpegged its currency from the US dollar, and general confidence evaporated.

Indonesia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, and the Philippines were the most affected countries as currency declines spread rapidly across, and they saw a drop in capital inflows of over $100 billion.

The Asian crisis eventually destabilized the global economy at the end of the 1990s.

Source: Britannica

Black Monday, 1987

traders nyse phone
Traders at work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchage shortly after the opening bell, September 24.

33 years ago, global financial markets witnessed one of their worst days in what came to be known as Black Monday.

The crash began in Asia, gained ground in London, and wound up with the Dow Jones Industrial Average weaker by 22.6% the same day in New York.

It is believed the crash was triggered by a combination of computer-based trading models gone wrong, a fall in oil prices, and rising US-Iran tensions. 

But unlike the 1929 market crash, Black Monday did not lead to an economic recession.

Source: Quartz

Wall Street Crash, 1929

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The “Roaring 20s” were an age of excess and wild speculation. That all came to an end in September and October 1929, culminating in Black Tuesday, 29 October, when 16 million shares were sold on the NYSE in one day and the market collapsed

On 21st October, panic selling kicked off and by the tragic 29th, prices fully collapsed.

Finance legends like the Rockefeller family and William Durant ventured to correct the market by purchasing large quantities of stocks, but the rapid price drops did not stop. 

By 1930, America was in the Great Depression — possibly the most painful crash in recorded history.

It spread well beyond the US, and by 1932, the world’s GDP had contracted around 15%.

Source: History Extra

Vienna Stock Exchange Crash, 1873

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On the historic Black Friday, 9 May 1873, unlimited speculation in banks and companies that existed only on paper set off a massive fall in value of shares on the Vienna stock exchange and caused a wave of panic selling.

This marked the beginning of a lesser-known Great Depression that lasted five years and spread across Europe and to the US. 

The crash brought economic growth in the Habsburg Monarch to an end, and harshly impacted a group of bankers, some counselors of the imperial court and friends of the Emperor, including the imperial family itself. 

Source: Habsburger

Dutch Tulip Mania, 1637

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The Tulip mania was one of the first recorded financial bubbles, and occurred primarily in the Netherlands between 1634 and 1637.

After tulip bulbs contracted a non-fatal tulip-specific mosaic virus, their prices rose steadily and made the already overpriced flower even more popular and exotic. Tulip bulbs then saw a 20-fold increase in value in just one month.

But as it happens in speculative bubbles, holders eventually began to sell off their tulips to solidify their profits resulting in a doom loop of continuously lower prices. Although it was not a widespread craze, it hurt a handful of buyers in the short-lived luxury market.

More than anything, the tulip bubble crash serves as a lesson for the perils that excessive greed and speculation can lead to.

Source: Barrons

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