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ON GOING BERSERK: A NEUROCHEMICAL INQUIRY
HOWARD D. FABING
Am J Psychiatry 1956;113:409-415.
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Abstract

The ingestion of hallucinogenic mushrooms by Siberian tribes of the Kamchatka peninsula and by Indians of the Mexican highlands has been carried out in ritual and orgy for centuries. Ødman and Schübeler have advanced the hypothesis that the furious rage of the Berserks in the heyday of Viking culture a thousand years ago was brought about by the same agency, specifically the Amanita muscaria mushroom. A few years ago it was found that these fungi contain bufotenine, or n-n-dimethyl serotonin, a substance which is under scrutiny at this time for its possible neurochemical role in the causation of schizophrenia. Recent observations on the intravenous injection of bufotenine in man disclose that it is an hallucinogen, and that its psychophysiological effects bear a resemblance to the Berserksgang of the Norsemen in the time of the Sagas. These observations appear to offer support to the Ødman-Schübeler contention that the famed fury of the Berserks was what we would call a model psychosis today.

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