Scientists have completed the first placebo-controlled study of the effects of hallucinogen DMT on brain activity at rest, according to a new study. Dimethyltryptamine is a psychedelic drug known as the active ingredient in Arawa brew. Past studies have studied ayahuasca, but there are not many examples of controlled laboratory experiments on the DMT molecule itself. These new results demonstrate the way the molecule works on the brain, creating a signature of brain waves that look a lot like a waking dream.
"These are interesting rhythms, we find them when we dream or during different stages of sleep," Christopher Timmerman, the first author of the study at Imperial College, London, told Gizmodo. "There is an interesting similarity that may point to a common mechanism that these countries can have."
The team tested seven men and six women, all of whom had taken hallucinogens in the past. They attached each volunteer to electrodiffalogram electrodes to measure brainwave or EEG. Each participant received an intravenous injection of either DMT or placebo, and then evaluated how intense their journey was once per minute for 20 m minutes after receiving the dose while the scientists took data . One participant's EEG data were not included because they were moving too much during the experiment .
Brain cell collections produce oscillatory signals, producing regular waves of activity in several frequency ranges, including, in the order frequency from low to high: delta, theta, alpha, beta, low gamma and high gamma . These frequencies are related to different functions, though exactly how one prepares for interpretation. One such frequency, the alpha frequency, is more widespread when our eyes are closed and less widespread when open. DMT people show significantly less alpha and beta activity, but more diverse types of signals more generally than those receiving a placebo injection, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.
These results reveal that DMT users have been experiencing patterns of brain waves as if they were awake, said Timmermann. This is consistent with a previous, non-placebo controlled study of smoked DMT, ayahuasca study consumed as tea and other psychedelics, reported by Ars Technica.
Understanding the effects of psychedelics is important because it can help us learn the basics of neuroscience and brain function, Timerman said. These drugs can trigger different states of consciousness, in addition to being awake or dreaming, which are not well understood.
As for the applications, scientists are already exploring the potential medical applications of DMT. A recent placebo-controlled study in humans found that ayahuasca had antidepressant effects and another found similar mood-enhancing effects in rats microdoses of DMT .
More work needs to be done to look more closely at some of the wave patterns that researchers observe and see if they have additional meaning. Scientists will continue to explore these new spheres of consciousness about the impact of these conditions on our well-being. According to the document: "In observing what is lost and gained in the transition of consciousness in extreme ways, psychedelic neuroscience promises to enrich our knowledge and appreciation of mind-brain relationships in the widest range of contexts, inspiring as yet unsolved applications." [1