Study Finds DMT Induces Trip Similar to Near Death Experience

Mysterious glowing window portal.

There have long been anecdotal similarities between Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) and psychedelic trips induced by Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT. Within these experiences there are uncanny parallels, including out-of-body-experiences, traveling down a tunnel toward a white light, meetings with extra-dimensional or divine entities, and a feeling of being at peace. Then upon return to reality, there is often an overwhelming sense of gratitude for simply being alive that lingers indefinitely.

And now a study conducted at London’s Imperial College has been the first to scientifically compare these resemblances.

The study, which was headed by the young impresario of the university’s Psychedelic Research Group, Robin Carhart-Harris, administered DMT intravenously to 13 participants who had prior experience using psychedelics ranging from DMT, to psilocybin and LSD.

Two traits the study tested were the commonly reported ego-dissolution and the mystical or religious experience. To qualify these highly subjective experiences, they used two standardized tests created by colleagues: The Mystical Experience Questionnaire and the Validation of the Ego-Dissolution Inventory (EDI).

In their experiment, Carhart-Harris and colleagues administered a range of doses to participants in a single-blind study over two sessions, of which one session only a placebo was given.

Their results showed that every participant rated their DMT experience above the conventional cutoff for an NDE, essentially ranking the DMT trip higher than the minimum level one might consider an experience to be an NDE. They concluded, “results show that near-death experience phenomena were significantly enhanced following DMT administration.”

 

Watch this episode of Psychedelica in which we explore the scientific studies being conducted with DMT: The Spirit Molecule:

The theme of death and rebirth is also rife within the ayahuasca experience. The names of the plants used to create the ayahuasca brew contain references to death, while the word ayahuasca translates to ‘vine of the dead’ or ‘vine of the soul.

Not so surprisingly, when Raymond Moody coined the phrase “Near-Death Experience” in 1975, he actually noted the comparisons between NDEs and DMT trips. Today, after four decades of clinical research and a relaxation of certain taboos, the study of DMT has revealed it is an endogenous chemical, produced in varying quantities in the lungs and in cerebral spinal fluid.

When the DMT molecule was studied in a lab by Dr. Rick Strassman – head of the first clinical study to administer DMT in the United States – he found that it minimized neuronal damage from hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the brain. This discovery led Strassman to entertain the idea that maybe the body releases DMT in emergency situations when the brain’s oxygen supply is dwindling, producing the psychedelic NDE. Could this explain the similarities?

 

Watch Dr. Raymond Moody discuss Near Death Experiences on this episode of Beyond Belief:



New Gene Discovery May Explain Rapid Human Brain Evolution

A revealing new study on human evolution and brain development has just been published. Could this lend credence to the stoned ape theory of brain evolution?

About 300,000-800,000 years ago the human brain experienced a massive and accelerated growth spurt. Scientists have offered many explanations for how and why this may have occurred, but a new study out of Boston Children’s Hospital focused on a fast-evolving set of the human genome called human accelerated regions (HARS). Previous studies have found about 3,100 HARS during brain development, but the team at Children’s Hospital determined one HAR gene PPP1R17 could be responsible for or play a significant role in, rapid brain development. Further, they discovered this works differently in humans than in other animals.

Ben Stewart, the host of Gaia’s Limitless series, said,”[T]hese regions of the human DNA may hold some kind of an answer at the rapid explosion of human neo-cortex because if you think of it evolutionarily, there’s not been one creature, at least on planet Earth, that has been studied that had any organ increase in size as large and as rapidly as the human brain did, so there’s definitely some unanswered questions there.”

“I’m pretty sure that these HARS regions are being looked at for something very unique in the evolution of the brain, and my own personal twist on it is this also might be important when we start looking at brian-machine interfaces and how the brain can potentially cause mutations to adapt to some kind of technology in the brain to enhance or evolve the human brain,” Stewart said.

How could this new discovery be related to the Stoned Ape theory?

“There’s a possibility that the Stoned Ape theory could lead into this. Now, the Stoned Ape theory was really popularized by Terence McKenna,” Stewart said. “Over time, you would have some of our ancient ancestors, hominids, that would be following behind bovine creatures, cows, and in the cow patties in the fields that would naturally, having followed these creatures around for hundreds of thousands of years or whatever it might have been, that they would have started eating the mushrooms, the psilocybin mushrooms that grow naturally in cow patties. These experiences tickling the language centers and other parts of the brain, bringing down the rigidity of the default mode network, and activating other communication hubs within the brain, that could actually explain the rapid explosion of the human neocortex.”

“In this article, they’re saying that these human accelerated regions act differently in humans than they do in primates or creatures like mice and ferrets that they’ve looked into now. So, potentially if there is some connection with the Stoned Ape theory, that psychedelics or psychotropics helped in the expansion of the human neocortex, and made us as, at least psychologically, so much different than the rest of the creatures on Earth, then there may be something to look at here.”

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