Why do most fungi develop hallucinogenic substances?

Before we reveal the answers, let’s see what types of hallucinogenic mushrooms are divided into. According to the different active ingredients, hallucinogenic fungi can be divided into different families. A large group is Amanita, the main ingredients are muscimol and ibotenic acid. The most famous of them all is the Amanita muscaria, the fungus that frequently appears in the Mario game. Surely our childhood memories will be “hurt” a bit when saying that Mario is getting bigger and stronger thanks to the hallucinogen caused by the poison of this mushroom.

A mycologist in the US who has experienced the sensation of eating Amanita muscaria said that in a semi-conscious state the fungus causes, hallucinations of colors appear very often and continuously. After waking up, the mood swells and the euphoria can last from 3 to 4 hours. At the same time feel better health, and can lift heavy objects easily. But in reality, this is just an illusion.

Another type of hallucinogenic fungus is even stronger, the active ingredient is psilocybin, which is a neurotoxin that regulates nerves. They include the four genera Gymnopilus, Copelandia, Conocybe and Psilocybe. Most of the hallucinogenic Yunnan mushroom’s secret is to contain this substance, and they are also the most beloved of the Yunnan.

Psilocybin is similar to the hallucinogenic LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide). When entering the human body, psilocybin will be quickly converted to the phosphorus reduced psilocybin. Such structures activate the serotonin receptors for the neurotransmitters involved in sensory pleasure, thereby affecting many biological processes and nerve activity of the human body. Another study believes that it may affect the prefrontal cortex of the human brain, thereby interfering with the body’s metabolism and achieving a hallucinogenic effect.

Compared with LSD, which also works on serotonin receptors, it works for a relatively short time and has a smaller effect. Therefore, the symptoms or hallucinations that cause these two substances are generally different. According to ventricular studies, the hallucinogenic level of 100 mg new psilocybin is equal to 1 mg of LSD.

Why do most fungi develop hallucinogenic substances | Live

The psilocybin’s ability to cause cognitive distortion may also be related to the effect of prefrontal cortical activity.

So, what is the purpose of the development of this hallucinogenic ingredient?

A recent study published in the journal Evolution Letters has shown that hallucinogenic fungi can develop hallucinogenic ingredients against fungal-eating insects. The aim is to disturb the insect’s mind so that it cannot function properly. Because psilocybin not only interferes with human neurotransmission but also affects insects. For example, psilocybin can inhibit the fly’s neurotransmitters and make them lose their appetite. In this way, the psychedelic ingredients in the mushrooms are used against predators.

Why do most fungi develop hallucinogenic substances | Live

Most of the fungi that produce psilocybin grow on rotting wood or feces. Therefore, they are not only afraid of being attacked by insects but also fear of insects competing for food with them. For example, termites are a major competitor to fungi in rotting logs, and psilocybin causes termites to die out. Therefore, many studies believe that hallucinogenic ingredients are important means by which fungi compete with insects.

Current studies have found that there are about 200 types of fungi that contain the compound psilocybin, which changes the structure of the brain.

Surely we would think that the mushrooms share the same hallucinogenic “weapon” coming from closely related species. However, it is surprising that they are not related to each other. Although they share the word “mushrooms”, but on the surface they have nothing in common, not even a common ancestor. But it can be confirmed that these fungi all share the same hallucinogenic gene.

So why is that? The psilocybin-producing gene was initially transferred through a method called transgenic transfer. Vertical gene transfer is a form of inheritance from one generation to the next. Horizontal gene transfer refers to the ability to inherit genes between different species. It breaks the boundaries of kinship and complicates the flow of genes. For example, when two different organisms meet, they have the ability to exchange DNA directly. Of course, this condition usually occurs when the organism is in an extremely harsh environment, or it is greatly threatened.

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However, scientists have discovered that DNA is rarely shared this way in the world of fungi. So why is the psilocybin-producing gene cluster an exception?

Psilocybin is not only present in mushrooms that not only cause hallucinations, but it also exerts greater power than in other organisms. For example, there is a cicada parasitic fungus called Massospora, which uses psilocybin to control cicadas for a number of survival purposes.

At the 2019 American Conference of Microbiology (ASM Microbe 2019), plant pathologist Matthew Kasson announced an astonishing discovery. He discovered that the Massospora fungus produced psilocybin to make the cicadas a zombie to continue mating. Yes, the effect of this fungus on cicadas is to cause them to mate continuously. The fungus also produces cathinones to suppress the cravings of cicadas and make them lose interest in foraging. So, even when these cicadas mating to the point that the body cannot bear it, they still have to “desperately” mate. Also through the mating process, the Massospora fungus transmits spores into the body of the infected cicada’s partner.

Why do most fungi develop hallucinogenic substances | Live

Although scientists are still unclear how the Massospora fungus does this. However, hallucinogens like psilocybin are now considered “great medicine” in medicine. Although it has not yet been developed and used on a large scale, there have been many studies on its role in disease prevention and treatment.

For example, psilocybin can induce changes in the state of consciousness in humans and animals, stimulates emotions and changes in perception of mind and time, and has a low toxicity, mild effect, is appropriate. for psychotherapy and is a potential diagnostic and therapeutic drug for mental illness.

Why do most fungi develop hallucinogenic substances | Live

To date, psilocybin has been used in the research and treatment of schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and other ailments. After using the hallucinogen, the psychiatric patient will be relaxed, the symptoms of anxiety, depression are reduced, tolerance is also improved significantly, making it easier for patients to accept suggestions and facilitate psychological treatment.

In addition, dephosphorylated psilocybin has also become a neurobiological tool for studying changes in consciousness. Symptoms from poisoning of these substances are very similar to those of acute schizophrenia, and can be used to study the transmission laws of brain neurotransmitters. There are also researchers giving psilocybin injections to healthy people to study the rate and rhythm of cognitive changes.

Why do most fungi develop hallucinogenic substances | Live

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