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Your Brain on FoodHow Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings$
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Gary Wenk

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388541

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388541.001.0001

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Your Brain’s Anchor to Reality

Your Brain’s Anchor to Reality

(p.81) chapter 4 Your Brain’s Anchor to Reality
Your Brain on Food

Gary L. Wenk

Oxford University Press

The consumption of many different plants by our ancestors lead to the discovery of the important role played by the neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain. Chemicals in these plants that interfere with the function of serotonin can produce vivid and colorful hallucinations, migraine headaches, anxiety, depression, sleep, and death. Consumption of grain or corn that is contaminated with an ergot fungus may have been responsible for the death of thousands of people in ancient Europe while the consumption of mushrooms in ancient Mexico may have lead to the appearance of various religious ceremonies that defined specific cultures. The merging and mixing of sensory processes, for example, sights that produce sounds or smells that have color, must have been very frightening to our ancestors. The experience often took on a mystical or religious interpretation in order to make sense of what we now call a hallucination. It is possible that ritualistic manipulation of serotonin neurons in the brain played a role in the individual expressions of religiosity across cultures. Today, we mostly focus upon the role of serotonin in the control of mood and migraines.

Keywords:   serotonin, raphe nuclei, venoms, vasoconstriction, synesthesia, LSD, Saint Anthony's holy fire, psilocybin, Albert Hofmann, religiosity

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