Psilocybin can increase your ability to generate dream-like creative insights, but useful ideas only come a week after the high.
That’s according to a new study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry. Researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that taking psilocybin increased the generation of spontaneous creative insights, while decreasing deliberate task-based creativity.
In other words, tripping on mushrooms untaps a mechanism that leads to more ideas popping out of thin air. On the other hand, shrooming makes it harder to come up with solutions on the spot in response to various scenarios.
As it’s been suggested that productive, creative cognition is likely facilitated by a balance between spontaneous insights and controlled, deliberate processing, the findings suggest that psychedelics can disrupt that balance at a conscious level.
However, subconsciously the balance is restored with deliberate creative thinking potentially even enhanced, the researchers say, evidenced by an increased number of good ideas measured in tests a week after the high.
The study’s authors also used brain imaging, and found that they could predict the persisting effects.
“Findings add some support to historical claims that psychedelics can influence aspects of the creative process, potentially indicating them as a tool to investigate creativity and subsequent underlying neural mechanisms,” the report reads.
— Natasha L Mason (@NL_Mason) April 8, 2021
Researchers recruited 60 participants with previous psychedelic experience who hadn’t taken any in the past three months. Subjects were randomly put into psilocybin and placebo groups. Their creativity was measured before, during and seven days after the magic mushroom experience.
One of the tests involved finding associations between pictures. Participants were asked to provide as many answers as possible. In another test, they listed as many possible uses for two common household items as they could in three minutes.
During the mushroom trip, researchers observed that the subjects’ ability to generate practical ideas were limited. Psilocybin also impaired the ability to tell how good their ideas were, leading to an overestimation of quality.
“Reports of increased creativity during the acute psychedelic state are due to a subjective sense of creativity enhancement that does not match the objective quality,” reads the study.
However, seven days later, quality appeared to catch up to quantity when a higher number of novel ideas were generated by participants in the psilocybin group.
Psilocybin creativity spawned from dream-like brain disruptions
Researchers concluded the increase in spontaneous creative thinking while taking psilocybin was due to disruptions in parts of the brain known to be involved in dream-like states.
“Our data suggest that the psychedelic state may increase the potential for spontaneous creative thought, and does so via disruption of default mode integrity,” reads the study. According to the authors, dreaming has been described as being similar to the bizarre cognitive phenomena of a psychedelic state. One that causes illogical transitions between thoughts and vivid imagery.
The researchers call for more research because psilocybin’s effects on creativity could be used to further the treatment of several mental health disorders characterized by rigid, inflexible thought patterns.
“Namely, while under the influence of a psychedelic, rigid thought content could be decreased, while unguided, spontaneous thoughts may give rise to new insights and perspectives of previous events and current problems.”
Top image of visionary artist Alex Grey by justthismoment via Wikimedia Commons