A woman who spent 34 years unable to dream has had her life transformed by magic mushrooms.
The woman suffered from aphantasia, a condition in which people are unable to visualise mental images or ‘see’ things in their minds’ eye, even when trying to imagine them.
A new study investigated the effects of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, on a woman with aphantasia, a condition in which people are unable to visualise mental images or ‘see’ things in their minds’ eye, even when trying to imagine them.
But after taking psilocybin, the woman reported being able to ‘see’ images in her mind’s eye and having more vivid dreams.
Previously, she said that ‘if someone tells me “imagine a castle”, I can only imagine a castle that I know, like Hogwarts, and it takes the form of descriptions I have read, not images.’
The woman’s lack of mental imagery made it difficult for her to remember routes and caused her to get lost regularly. This changed after a dose of psilocybin.
‘I found it incredible because it was the first time I had images in my mind, and I realised that you can play with images, zoom in, zoom out, break down colours,’ she said.
Around two to five per cent of the population has aphantasia and it is more common in men than women. People with the condition can find it difficult to dream, remember things, or plan for the future.
They study showed that perception of visual imagery increased from the minimum rating before taking psilocybin to the maximum.
Over the next year, her internal visualisations had become less colourful but her ability to visualise thoughts had reached that of the average person without aphantasia.
The reason behind the change is still unclear to researchers, but they suspect it has to do with psilocybin’s ability to alter visual perception. So, it is possible that the drug may have changed the way her brain processes visual information.
Another theory is the drug might have also increased her emotional responsiveness, making it easier for her to create mental images.
The author cautioned that the case report is based on a single individual, and further research involving larger samples and long-term follow-ups are needed to explore the potential effects of psilocybin.
The study has not yet been peer reviewed, but is available as a pre-print on PsyArXiv.