Study: Microdoses of psychedelic ‘magic mushrooms’ enhance creativity

LEIDEN, Netherlands — If you’re feeling creatively blocked, a small trip might be in store for you. A new study finds that minute measurements of psychedelic mushrooms may boost a person’s creativity without inducing the sometimes frightening hallucinations often encountered by people using the drug recreationally.

A team of researchers from The Netherlands, Germany, and the Czech Republic conducted what they say is the first study of its kind to examine the effects that “microdoses” of so-called “magic” mushrooms or truffles have on an individual’s ability to think and problem solve in a natural setting.

For their research, 36 adults who volunteered to consume small amounts of psychedelic truffles while attending an event organized by the Psychedelic Society of The Netherlands. Participants were given envelopes which contained 0.37 grams of the substance. Before taking the drugs, they were asked to complete three tasks: one which evaluated their convergent thinking, or their ability to reach a single solution to a problem; another that tested their fluid intelligence, or their ability to reason and solve new problems; and one testing their divergent thinking, which accounts for a person’s ability to reach various solutions to a problem.

Participants then took their microdoses of the dried truffles and completed the three tests again.

The authors found that the individuals demonstrated significant improvement when it came to creativity after taking the psychedelic drugs. That is, their overall intelligence and ability to analyze the tasks showed no change, but when it came to working up different ideas to solve each challenge, the participants came up with more original solutions, and did so with greater ease and flexibility. Both divergent and convergent thinking seemed to be enhanced after the drugs were consumed.

“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 the study’s lead author Luisa Prochazkova, from Leiden University in The Netherlands, in a statement. “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.”

Microdoses of magic mushrooms and other psychedelics, such as LSD, have been tested by scientists in recent years for numerous potential benefits in the mental health arena. One such study last year found they may be particularly helpful for reducing criminal behavior among at-risk individuals. Prochazkova believes her research only adds to the growing collection of proof.

“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 concludes.

The full study was published on October 25, 2018 in the journal Psychopharmacology.