Scientists have peeked inside the brain to show how DMT uptake affects human consciousness, significantly altering the electrical activity of the brain.
DMT (or dimethyltryptamine) is one of the main psychoactive ingredients in Ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew traditionally made from vineyards and leaves from the Amazon rainforest. The drink is usually prepared as part of a shamanic ceremony and is associated with unusual and vivid visions or hallucinations.
The latest study is the first to show how the powerful psychedelic alters our waking brain waves ̵
A job led by researchers at the Imperial College London Center for Psychedelic Research and published today in the journal Scientific Reports, can help explain why people taking DMT and Ayahuasca experience intense visual imaging and immersion. "
DMT is a naturally occurring chemical found in insignificant quantities in the human brain, but also in greater quantities in a number of plant species around the world.
Accounts from people who have taken DMT report intense visual hallucinations, often accompanied by intense emotional experiences and even "breakthroughs" in what consumers describe as an alternate reality or dimension.
It is clear that these people are completely immersed in their experience. – it's like dreaming only far more vivid and immersive, it's like dreaming but with your eyes open Christopher Timmerman Center for Psychedelic Research
But scientists are interested in using the powerful psychoactive compound for research since it produces relatively short but intense psychedelic experiences, providing a window for collecting data on brain activity when consciousness is profoundly altered.
In the last study, the Imperial team captured EEG measures from healthy participants in a clinical setting, in a placebo-controlled design.
A total of 13 participants were given an intravenous infusion of DMT at the National Institutes of Health (NIHR) Imperial Clinical Research Facility. Volunteers were provided with electrode caps to measure brain electrical activity before, during, and after infusion, with the peak of psychedelic experience lasting about 10 minutes.
Analysis has shown that DMT significantly alters electrical activity in the brain, characterized by marked failure in alpha waves, the dominant electrical rhythm of the human brain when awake. They also found a short-term increase in brain waves, usually associated with dreaming, namely theta waves.
"Chaotic" brain activity
In addition to changes in brain wave types, they also found that overall brain activity became more chaotic and less predictable – the opposite of what is observed in reduced states consciousness, such as in deep sleep or under general anesthesia.
"The changes in brain activity that accompany DMT are slightly different from those seen in other psychedelics, such as psilocybin or LSD, where we see only a decrease in brain waves," says lead author Christopher Timmerman of the Center for psychedelic studies.
“Here we saw an emergent rhythm that was present during the most intense part of the experience, suggesting an emergent order among otherwise chaotic brain patterns. activity.
"From the altered brain waves and participant reports, it is clear that these people are completely immersed in their experience – it is like dreaming only far more vivid and immersive, like a dream, but with your eyes open."  with DMT can give an important idea of the connection between brain activity and consciousness and this little study is the first step along this path Dr. Robin Karhart-Harris Center for Psychedelic Research
Mr. Timmerman explains that while it's unclear if DMT may have some clinical potential at this stage, gru ATA hopes to continue the work by supplying continuous infusion of DMT to expand the window of the psychedelic experience and gather more data.
The team says that future studies may include more complex measurements of brain activity, such as fMRI, to show which regions and networks of the brain are affected by DMT. They believe that the visual cortex, the large area to the back of the brain, is likely to be involved.
Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, Head of the Psychedelic Research Center, says, "DMT is a particularly intriguing psychedelic. The visual vitality and depth of immersion produced by high doses of the substance appear to be in excess of what has been reported in psychedelics such as psilocybin or "magic mushrooms".
"It is difficult to capture and communicate what it is like for people experiencing DMT, but to make it a dream to dream while awake or to experience near-death is beneficial.
"We believe that DMT research can provide an important insight into the connection between brain activity and consciousness, and this small study is the first step in this path. ”
"Neural correlates of DMT experience assessed with multivariate EEG" by Christopher Timmermann et al. was published in the journal Scientific Reports . DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-019-51974-4
Characteristic Image: From a video presented with an EEG output showing a fall in Alpha waves. Credit: Masahiro Kahata