The use of very small doses of magic mushrooms and psychedelic truffles can lead to a more open state of thinking, resulting in more novel, creative ideas, according to a new study at Leiden University in The Netherlands.
“Microdosing” in this manner may allow individuals to experience the creative benefits of psychedelic drugs without the risk of the so-called “bad trips” that can occur with high doses of such substances, say the researchers.
Taking a tiny fraction of a normal dose of psychedelic substances is becoming a trend in some professional circles because it is believed to stimulate brain function and enhance mental flexibility and creativity. However, scientific research that moves away from anecdotal evidence is still rare.
The study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, is the first of its kind to experimentally investigate the cognitive-enhancing effects of microdosing on a person’s brain function within a natural setting.
In this study, the researchers investigated how a microdose of a psychedelic substance affected the cognitive brain function of 36 people who were present at an event organized by the Psychedelic Society of The Netherlands.
During the experimental phase, participants were given three tasks to complete before and after they took on average 0.37 grams of dried truffles. The tests evaluated the participants’ convergent thinking (the identification of a single solution to a problem), their fluid intelligence (the capacity to reason and solve new problems) and their divergent thinking (the ability to recognize many possible solutions).
Afterwards, the researchers analyzed the active substances present in the truffles consumed by participants.
The results show that, after taking the microdose of truffles, the participants’ convergent thinking abilities improved. Participants also shared more ideas about how to solve a given task, and were more fluent, flexible and original in the possibilities they presented. Microdosing with psychedelic substances therefore improved the participants’ divergent and convergent thinking.
These findings support previous studies showing that high doses of psychedelics can enhance creative performance. The fact that participants’ intelligence scores and general analytical skills did not change suggests that the effect of the truffles is rather selective, and more to the benefit of a person’s creative abilities.
“Taken together, our results suggest that consuming a microdose of truffles allowed participants to create more out-of-the-box alternative solutions for a problem, thus providing preliminary support for the assumption that microdosing improves divergent thinking,” says study leader Luisa Prochazkova of Leiden University.
“Moreover, we also observed an improvement in convergent thinking, that is, increased performance on a task that requires the convergence on one single correct or best solution.”
Prochazkova hopes the new results will encourage more research into the beneficial effects of microdosing psychedelics.
“Apart from its benefits as a potential cognitive enhancement technique, microdosing could be further investigated for its therapeutic efficacy to help individuals who suffer from rigid thought patterns or behavior such as individuals with depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder,” she says.