WHYY PBS took a look at one particular experiment with a post-COVID individual named Dustin, whose last name has been withheld for privacy. After losing his smell and the joys it brought to life, he took magic mushrooms and prepared for the trip of a lifetime.
It was about two hours in that Dustin realized he needed some deodorant. “And I was like, ‘What the hell is going on? Like, I smell awful.’ And then I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can smell!’,” he told the outlet.
But how did someone suffering from anosmia (loss of smell) regenerate that sense with magic mushrooms?
WHYY PBS notes the most notable explanation could be that psilocybin causes neurons to regenerate, leading to “neurogenesis.” Neurons in naval cavities send odor molecules up to the brain, a process that’s hindered by anosmia.
Photo by Fanette Guilloud
The neurons attacked by COVID-19 responsible for smell perception might grow back when taking psilocybin.
Another explanation could be that psilocybin sparks certain serotonin receptors to wake up. Chris von Barthelda, professor of physiology and cell biology at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, was on board with this notion.
“Psilocybin is known to have changes in perception, and so I could imagine that — let’s say you have COVID, you lost your sense of smell. So for weeks or even months, there has been no activity in your olfactory nerve. And so the parts of the brain that normally receive this information, they noticed that, well, there’s nothing coming in.”
When these parts of the brain aren’t doing their job, they become lazy in a way and forget their responsibilities and actions.
“So maybe what psychedelic mushrooms do is basically hit a reset button,” von Barthelda states. “And so, whatever is coming in is now being perceived…then the cortical areas that normally receive olfactory information are kind of, ‘Oh, there is something,’ and then they pay more attention to it.”