The Default Mode Network

Default Mode Network

One of the most frequent questions we get from our customers is: How do I know if microdosing is working? 

I’ve been experimenting with dosage and frequency and sometimes I feel sleepy, sometimes I can feel a little nauseous, and other times, it seems that I feel nothing at all.

Microdosing by definition is not about experiencing a high, and so what metrics of success should we be considering? 

Once we have been microdosing for approximately 4 weeks or more, we start to can look back and begin to notice if certain habits are easier to give up and/or new routines easier to implement? 

We can notice if we don’t experience road rage as often, if those closest to us report on our good spirits, or if we’ve caught ourselves whistling a tune in the shower lately?

The way we see our world, and ourselves in it and it’s due to the work of the default mode network (DMN) in our brains. As it turns out, psilocybin is being studied extensively for its ability to regulate our default mode network.

Allow me if you will, to go on a little tangent in the field of neuroscience. 

Learning about the mechanics and coordination of our brain is vital in understanding the effects of microdosing psilocybin. Once we know a little bit about the physiological functions of our brains, we can then begin to measure our microdosing progress more thoroughly. 

Ready? Here we go.


First, some neuroscience


Frontiers in Neuroscience published an article back in 2014 that reads: 

“In the past two decades, the social brain of human has been intensively studied in several different domains: (1) understanding others, (2) understanding oneself, (3) controlling oneself, and (4) the processes that occur at the interface of self and others. However, in the strictest sense, social cognition is about understanding of other people, including their emotional, mental, psychological status, and behaviors. Increasing studies have shown that regions of the default mode network (DMN) largely activate in tasks requiring participants to understand and interact with others, such as perceiving and interpreting other’s emotion status, showing empathy to other people, inferring other’s beliefs and intentions, and performing moral judgments on other’s behavior.”

This set of brain regions exhibits strong and low-frequency oscillations when a person is awake, alert but not focused on any one particular task. This organized neural activity is the default mode network.

Should an individual become focused on a goal-oriented task, something called the task-positive network (TPN) takes over. 

These two (DMN and TPN) oscillate as needed based on the activity at hand. In fact, it seems that DMN can be used as predictive behavioral markers and as clinical diagnostic tools, using both the functional connectivity and the neural activation of the DMN specifically.

During this discussion between our founder Nils discusses the default mode network with Djai (Microdose Pro’s resident neuropsychologist), where they pointed out that the default mode network is also associated with excessive rumination, worry, and focus on the past, or daydreaming of a future.

Like any ecosystem, the default mode network has a very precise calibration. Should this calibration be rattled, this dysregulation can become the predictive factor regarding behavior and mental health. 


Dysregulated Default Mode Network


A Science Direct article reports that the default mode network shows dysfunction in addicts while PubMed has reported that a dysregulated default mode network can be related to dementia, epilepsy, anxiety/depression, ADHD, etc. 

This year, Nature published a scientific report stating that:

 “NBS revealed hyperconnectivity within a number of brain networks of chronic cannabis users. ConnICA subsequently identified hyperconnectivity within all brain networks as a significant pattern that distinguished chronic cannabis users from occasional cannabis users. In addition, moderate increments in functional connectivity in chronic cannabis users were also observed between a select number of networks: i.e. between the limbic network and the DMN and subcortical brain areas, and between attentional networks and the somatomotor network. This broad pattern of hyperconnectivity was also paralleled by moderate reductions of functional connectivity between remaining network edges.”

Our default mode network is even affected by caffeine. Dove Press published a study that suggested that caffeine’s effect on the human brain results in the improvement of vigilance and attention which are mainly sub-served by our default mode network. 


Default Mode Network

Rebooting & Recalibrating


A hero’s dose of psilocybin is like a reboot for the brain. When taking large doses of psilocybin (magic mushrooms), it prompts our perspective to dramatically change and reveal itself in surprising ways, or as some might call it: going on a hero’s journey.

Turning on all the senses at once, feeling like we can see sound or feel colors, to then feeling like our ego has dissolved into an unfamiliar state. This is a more dramatic effect on the brain and is not something for everyone.

A larger dose of psilocybin is not to be undertaken alone and without robust guidance or support.

However, microdosing is a more gradual and sustained process. Routinely taking smaller doses that do not induce a feeling of being ‘high’ remain deeply beneficial over time.

In one of our previous articles, we discussed how the neuroplastic effects of psilocybin are easily described as a snowfall, erasing previously laid tracks and leveling out the landscape enabling brand new pathways and connections. 

New pathways and connections mean that old unwanted habits somehow can just fall away and new habits bring little resistance when undertaken.

Previous studies have suggested that DMN activation is positively correlated with drug craving/withdrawal, while substance consumption suppresses the activity of DMN. 

Johns Hopkins published an article about how psilocybin can aid in quitting smoking. Their researchers reported that: 

“15 study participants taking psilocybin achieved an 80 percent abstinence rate over six months, compared to an approximate 35 percent success rate for patients taking varenicline, which is widely considered to be the most effective smoking cessation drug.”


Psilocybin and the default mode network (DMN)


Stepping back and looking at all these moving pieces, we can start to get a sense of what is at play here. 

When we are not in a flow state the default mode network is at play. A system of coordinated low-frequency oscillations that give us a sense of ourselves and the people around us. A brain state that is active when reflecting on the past and future and guides our cravings and impulses. 

When the DMN is optimally calibrated, we feel centered, present, empathic, compassionate, and at ease. When the default mode network is rattled, we can feel triggered, obsess over the past or future, and feel uneasy with a deep craving to self-soothe.

Microdosing promotes neuroplasticity; creating brand new synaptic connections while reinforcing existing positive connections. 

It is a practice that shows slow and compounding benefits. Small doses, regularly scattered over time can bring steady, gradual, and long-lasting benefits. 

Psilocybin can correlate strongly with a more calibrated default mode network and therefore making life more enjoyable all ‘round. 


Shine bright. Do good. Flow strong.

Asha ✨

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Lion’s Mane and Brain Health
Your Monthly Upgrade #3 | June 2022