New study suggests expectations may influence the effects of microdosing psilocybin
The supposed positive effects of microdosing psilocybin may be driven by the expectations of those taking the drug, according to the results of a recently published double-blind study conducted by researchers affiliated with the University of Buenos Aires.
The authors of the study, published last month in the journal Translational Psychiatry, note that psilocybin microdosing has grown in popularity in recent years. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the practice of ingesting small, subhallucinogenic doses of the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms has several benefits. Those who microdose psilocybin often say that the drug can improve focus, mood, creativity, and cognitive function. However, little scientific research has been done on the benefits of microdosing psilocybin or other psychedelic drugs.
“Much anecdotal evidence suggests that microdosing can improve mood, well-being, creativity, and cognition, and recent uncontrolled, open-label, observational studies have empirically supported these claims,” the authors wrote. “While these studies are encouraging, they are prone to experimental bias, including confirmation bias and placebo effects. This is particularly problematic in the case of microdosing, as users compose a self-selected sample with optimistic expectations of the outcome of the practice.”
To conduct the study, the researchers recruited 34 participants who already had plans to start a psilocybin microdosing regimen with their own mushrooms. The study participants agreed to adjust their dose and schedule to the protocol the researchers designed.
The participants were examined over a period of two weeks. Over the course of a week, they received two doses of half a gram of dried psilocybin mushrooms in one capsule. During the other week, participants received a placebo of the same formulation and weight. The study was double-blind, meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew which dose contained psilocybin and which was the placebo.
Participants completed questionnaires in which they self-reported any acute effects they experienced with each dose, such as: B. temporal or spatial distortions, and performed psychological measures, including anxiety, positive and negative affect, well-being and stress. They also completed several tasks measuring creativity, perception and cognition, and received EEGs to measure their brain activity. In addition, participants reported their expectations of how their mental state might change in different areas, including positive emotions and anxiety.
Effect stronger on those who knew they were taking mushrooms
The results of the self-reported questionnaires showed significantly greater acute effects of psilocybin compared to placebo. However, the effect was only significant in participants who correctly identified whether they were taking psilocybin or the placebo, suggesting that the drug’s subjective effects were influenced by their expectations.
Although EEG test results showed altered brain wave rhythms, research found no positive effects of psilocybin on creativity, cognition, or self-reported mental well-being. In fact, a trend identified in the data suggested that psilocybin intake may have impaired participants’ performance on certain cognitive tasks. The authors noted that the trend is consistent with previous research, which found that high doses of serotonergic psychedelics can impair some cognitive functions, such as attention and decision-making.
In their discussion of the research, the study authors noted that the widespread perception of the benefits of microdosing could impact the experiences of those attempting a low-dose psilocybin cycle.
“The reported acute effects were significantly more intense at the active dose compared to placebo, but only in participants who correctly identified their experimental condition,” they wrote.
Overall, the results did not support the anecdotal evidence that microdosing psilocybin improves well-being, creativity, or cognitive function. However, the researchers identified several limitations of the study, including the short-term duration of the two-week dosing regimen. They also noted that the study cohort consisted of healthy subjects and that microdosing may have the strongest effect on people with mental health issues. The authors recommended further research to determine if microdosing psilocybin has any mental health benefits, including the effects that a prolonged microdosing schedule might have on participants.
The study, “Microdosing with Psilocybin Mushrooms: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study,” was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry in July.