Dr. Rainer Krähenmann is a Project Leader at the Neuropsycho-pharmacology and Brain Imaging Department of Psychiatry at the University Hospital for Psychiatry in Zürich, Switzerland. He is interested in researching the neural correlates of both altered and pathological states of consciousness. Currently, he is involved in an fMRI study investigating the functional networks of hallucinogen-induced states of consciousness.

His research team recently showed psilocybin found in “magic mushrooms” inhibits the processing of negative emotions in the brain. He was kind enough to briefly answer a few of our questions regarding his study:

Q: If I understood correctly, you found that a moderate amount of psilocybin eliminates the processing of negative visual stimuli. How exactly would you define “negative visual stimuli” ? Does the psilocybin also have an effect on neutral and positive stimuli processing (if you also followed this in the study)?

Thank you for your post. We used threat-related stimuli, like danger-signalling animals, car accidents, etc. Our group has investigated the effects of psilocybin on positive stimuli previously- we found that psilocybin reduced processing of negative, but not of positive stimuli- leading to a positive processing bias.

Q: Was there any boomerang effects when the subjects recovered from the effects of the substance? Were there any other positive/negative effects of the substance intake?

 No, there were no boomerang effects.

Q: Was it difficult to do this study – obtain approval for usage of psilocybin on humans? I know some countries have it tougher than others, what’s your experience working with otherwise illegal substances?

Because our group led by Franz Vollenweider has over 20 years of experience with research on hallucinogenic substances, approval here in Switzerland was obtained as with previous studies.

Q: judging by your experience, what do you think the legal status of psilocybin “magic mushrooms” should be – both in terms of medical and recreational consumption?

Regarding magic mushrooms, I strongly advise guidance by professional staff, as set and setting are important issues here.