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Ayahuasca changes brainwaves to produce awake dream-like state, study findings

An extremely stylized illustration of kneeling people waving their hands.
Enlarge / A sketch of images drawn by the participant during the experiences of the study.

Under the influence of a psychedelic infusion known as Ayahuasca, people experience vivid visual and auditory hallucinations and also feel as if they were in a dream. A new study, now published in Scientific Reports, has shown that the drug changes the user's awake brain-wave pattern to produce a mental state that the user defines as awake dreaming.

Ayahuasca is a bitter tea made from Brazilian vine banisteriopsis caapipopularly known as the "spiritual bond" used in spiritual ceremonies directed by the shaman among the people in the Amazon basin. The primary active ingredient is dimethyltryptamine (DMT). This is the secret of ayahuasca's powerful psychedelic effects, which can also create feelings of joy and fear, or a sense of epiphany or psychological breakthrough. However, these mind-changing features come at a price. Participants are usually advised to bring a bucket because nausea and vomiting (and sometimes diarrhea) are common reactions of tea.

The brain controls the perception and communication in the body through chemical neurotransmitters. Each neurotransmitter binds to appropriate sites on nerve cells known as receptors. For example, LSD targets the brain's serotonin receptors. Ayahuasca contains a compound (banisterin) that binds to dopamine receptors in the brain. (Therefore, banisterine has the potential for the treatment of Parkinson's disease that destroys the dopamine receptors.)

A healer initiates a stretching ceremony in Colombia. Yage, Ayahuasca is a mixture of hallucinogenic liana and a psychoactive bush. "Src =" "width =" 640 "height =" 427 "srcset =" https: //cdn.arstechnica .net / wp-content / uploads / 2019/11 / ayahua2.jpg 2x
Enlarge / A healer initiates a stretching ceremony in Colombia. Yage, Ayahuasca is a mixture of hallucinogenic liana and a psychoactive bush.

Eitan Abramovich / AFP / Getty Images

Several previous brain imaging studies involving humans have shown that psychedelics disrupt normal brain activity and increase the random firing of neurons in the visual cortex. For example, a 2012 study by David Nutt and colleagues at Imperial College London Psychedelic Research Center (CPR) scanned the brains of 30 subjects (all psychedelics users) while under the influence of psilocybin (ie magic mushrooms). The laboratory then compared these scans to those taken after subjects received a saline placebo. Overall brain activity has fallen within a group of highly interconnected neuronal networks, called the “putative mode, ve which typically fires together when the brain is rested. Psilocybin has impaired the synchronization aspects of hallucinogenic drugs, which often cause a reported self – disintegrating sense of self – ego.

Nutt in 2016 et al. Compared to placebo, this time published the results of a second fMRI study in subjects under the influence of LSD. Once again, there was less synchronization (overall brain activity) between neurons in the default mode. However, researchers have also found that certain areas of the brain that do not normally communicate with each other are under the influence of LSD, especially the visual cortex. This may explain vividly complex hallucinations experienced by acid users. However, the effect appears to be separate from the ego dissolution effect; it is possible to experience one without the other.

In another study conducted in the Scientific Reports the following year, a sudden increase in randomness in brain activity was detected in subjects under the influence of psychotelic drugs. This is evidence of an increased awareness state that is often associated with psychedelics. And earlier this year, a team of Swiss researchers used MRI to follow the brain under the influence of acid. The results support the idea that hallucinogens cause the system to break down, which helps the brain track which information comes from the real world and is produced by the brain itself.

As Arslan John Timmer reported in February, they found that "a limited number of specific regions had increased activity rather than a general flooding. This suggests that hallucinogens-induced conditions are different from conditions such as anesthesia and sleep." common changes within. "

This article is the latest study from the CPR of the Empire. The study included an IV infusion of DMT, and 13 subjects equipped with EEG valves and electrodes to monitor brain activity. The team found that DMT leads to a significant reduction in alpha waves, constitutes a sign of alertness, and, in turn, causes a brief increase in brainwaves that express a dream state.

In addition, although it was shown that brain activity was reduced in subjects under the influence of psilocybin and LSD, researchers at Imperial College found more chaotic brain activity in subjects under the influence of DMT. Therefore, ayahuasca users may report more vivid visual effects and more submerged sensations than other psychedelics.

Ük We saw a rhythm that emerged in the most intense part of the experience, otherwise it suggested a pattern that emerged among the chaotic patterns of brain activity, Lider said leading author Christopher Timmermann. "From the changing brainwaves and the reports of the participants, it is clear that they are completely immersed in the experience of these people – it is not only as a much more vivid and immersive dream, but to dream but to be open."

Future studies may involve extending the time spent on DMT to collect more brainwave data, or fMRI imaging of participants in DMT, as in psilocybin and LSD.

Zor It's hard to capture and explain that people living in DMT are like dreaming when they're awake or near death, Ortak said co-author and CPR chairman Robin Carhart-Harris. “Our idea is that research with DMT can provide important information about the relationship between brain activity and consciousness, and this little study is the first step in this path”.

DOI: Scientific Reports, 2019. 10.1038 / s41598-019-51974-4 (about DOIs).

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