2-Minute Neuroscience: Psilocybin
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  • Release Date: 2024-01-26
  • psilocybin
  • psychoactive effects
  • psilocin
Video Introduction

Psilocybin is a substance found in a number of mushroom species that can be ingested to cause psychoactive effects. It is considered a psychedelic or hallucinogenic drug with some similarities to LSD in terms of effects.

Psilocybin itself is not thought to be very psychoactive, but soon after it is ingested it is metabolized into a substance called psilocin, which is highly psychoactive. Psilocybin is thus considered a prodrug, or a substance that is inactive until converted into an active drug after administration. Although we have some understanding of the activity of psilocin in the brain, it is not fully understood how this activity leads to the subjective experiences people have while taking psilocybin. Regardless, it is thought that psilocin’s activity at a subtype of serotonin receptor known as the 5-HT2A receptor is critical to the drug’s psychedelic effects. Psilocin is thought to act as a partial agonist at the 5-HT2A receptor, which means that it binds to the 5-HT2A receptor and causes a response that is a fraction of what the natural ligand, serotonin, does. Psilocin also interacts with other targets, like other serotonin receptor subtypes, some subtypes of dopamine, histamine, and adrenergic receptors, and the serotonin transporter. The role of these other targets in the effects of psilocybin, however, is not very clear.

Like many other psychedelic drugs, repeated administration of psilocybin over multiple days leads to rapid tolerance and substantially reduced effectiveness. This tolerance is thought to be associated with the down-regulation, or decrease in number, of 5-HT2A serotonin receptors. Psilocybin also exhibits cross-tolerance with LSD, meaning that if someone develops tolerance to one of these drugs, they may display tolerance to the other---regardless of their history with the other drug. Psilocybin, however, is not generally considered to be addictive and is thought to be safe in terms of its effects on the body. [1][2][3][4]

  1. Geiger HA, Wurst MG, Daniels RN. DARK Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Psilocybin. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2018 Oct 17;9(10):2438-2447. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00186. Epub 2018 Jul 16.
  2. Nichols DE.Psychedelics. Pharmacol Rev. 2016 Apr;68(2):264-355. doi: 10.1124/pr.115.011478.
  3. Rickli A, Moning OD, Hoener MC, Liechti ME. Receptor interaction profiles of novel psychoactive tryptamines compared with classic hallucinogens. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016 Aug;26(8):1327-37. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2016.05.001. Epub 2016 May 20.
  4. Tylš F, Páleníček T, Horáček J. Psilocybin--summary of knowledge and new perspectives. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 Mar;24(3):342-56. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2013.12.006. Epub 2013 Dec 17.
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Challenged, N. 2-Minute Neuroscience: Psilocybin. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1077 (accessed on 20 June 2024).
Challenged N. 2-Minute Neuroscience: Psilocybin. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1077. Accessed June 20, 2024.
Challenged, Neuroscientifically. "2-Minute Neuroscience: Psilocybin" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1077 (accessed June 20, 2024).
Challenged, N. (2024, January 26). 2-Minute Neuroscience: Psilocybin. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1077
Challenged, Neuroscientifically. "2-Minute Neuroscience: Psilocybin." Encyclopedia. Web. 26 January, 2024.
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