A new study has found that mice given electric shock lose their frightened response to associated sounds after being given small doses of the hallucinogen psilocybin.
Mice given an electric shock, then a low-dose of the hallucinogen psilocybin, lost their fearful response to a sound associated with a painful electric shock much more quickly than mice that didn't receive the drug.
"They stopped freezing; they lost their fear," said study co-author Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, a professor of movement disorders at the University of South Florida.
Past studies found that psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, could induce mystical experiences that could elevate mood, attitude, and behavior and even permanently alter personality for the better. Other studies show that psilocybin decreases brain activity.
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To test that hypothesis, the researchers played an auditory tone and gave the mice a painful shock. The mice soon associated the tone with the shock and would freeze when they heard it.
The mice taking the hallucinogen returned to normal behavior more quickly than those that had not, suggesting they got over their fear more quickly. At the same time, their brains showed a significant growth in new brain cells.