Studies suggest that medicinal mushrooms can have a significant role to play in helping us maintain cognitive function by protecting our brain cells, however, they may also help improve our ability to think, recall, remember, and increase brain power too.
Age, physical trauma to the brain, and lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, can all contribute to the death and decrease of neurons but there are five mushroom compounds which are shown to increase brain cell production and may even elevate cognitive capacity.
In other words, certain medicinal mushrooms can not only help protect and prevent the decrease in neurons but can also help stimulate the development of more neuronal networks which could, at very least, help slow the natural decline in cognitive function but may even improve our mental agility and memory.
Found in the fruiting body of Lions Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) hericenones are aromatic compounds providing a pleasant slightly nutty mushroomy smell. Of particular note is a hericenone simply named Hericenone A which has been shown to stimulate neurotrophic factors which then stimulate neurogenesis – the growth of new brain cells.
Erinacines are found within the mycelium of Lions Mane mushrooms and are also known to exhibit similar effects to hericenones within the brain by stimulating the production of Nerve Growth Factor, Brain derived neurotrophic factor, and glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor.
Lions mane mushrooms also contain terpenes called dictyophorines which also stimulate neuronal development via stimulation of neurotrophic factors.
Ergothionenine is found in particularly high quantities within Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus). It’s known that this compound is able to pass through the blood-brain barrier where it is shown to increase levels of a brain-derived molecule called doublecortin. Significantly, doublecortin is only present when brain cells are in a state of growth.
Recently there has been substantial scientific interest in the psychoactive compound psilocybin and its effect within the brain. More research is needed but it would seem that very small doses of psilocybin increases the proliferation of neuronal networks and studies are being carried out to see if it can help repair cognitive impairment caused by minor brain damage, such as those seen in professional martial arts fighters. It is also reported that employees working in tech industries are unofficially encouraged to micro-dose with psilocybin to improve problem solving, creative thinking, and ingenuity.
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