The day may be coming when mindfulness retreats include a psilocybin experience as part of the training. While there are many anecdotal reports of a link between psychedelics and meditative states, the topic is only beginning to be studied by scientists. Now a new report offers scientific evidence of an association between psilocybin use and greater feelings of openness and mindfulness.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the Copenhagen University Hospital Rigshospitaliet, alongside colleagues from the Czech Republic’s Department of Mental Health, examined for the first time a possible link between changes in the binding activity of the brain’s serotonin 5-HT2A receptors and the subject’s scores on mindfulness tests. The 5-HT2A receptor is known to play an important role in the effects of psychedelics. These findings suggest that negative changes in the binding activity of this neurotransmitter may correlate with greater mindfulness.
The paper, published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, built on the research team’s first findings published last year, which also focused on 5-HT2A. It also echoed findings of a previous study undertaken at the University of Zurich, which gave participants psilocybin after a five-day meditation retreat and measured for mindfulness immediately afterwards.
To see whether these results might be sustained over time, the Copenhagen/Czech team examined its 10 participants a week after taking psilocybin, and then again three months later, using questions from the Mindfulness Attention Meditation Scale (MAAS). They found that, after three months, the scores actually showed a statistically significant increase.
One of the paper’s authors, Martin Korsbak Madsen, MD, says that their study and the Zurich study reinforce each other: “Together our results indicate that both psilocybin and mindfulness meditation training increase mindfulness, but that a combination of the two might give an even more pronounced increase in mindfulness.”