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Psychedelic ‘Drug’ Discovered in Rat Brains

Artwork by Frank Alan Bella, www.bellastudios.com
Artwork by Frank Alan Bella, www.bellastudios.com

One of the most powerful psychedelic substances known--DMT--is naturally found in rat brains, and probably our brains too.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Louisiana State University have recently announced their discovery of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in the pineal gland of live rats.

This is huge news!

Although long speculated to be present in mammalian brains, this recent discovery was the first to confirm the presence of DMT in a living brain.

DMT is one of the primary ingredients in ayahuasca, the potent hallucinogenic jungle juice from the Amazon rain forest, and it produces powerful psychedelic effects that can easily dwarf those of LSD or magic mushrooms.

Many people consider DMT to be the most powerful psychedelic known.

DMT has been found naturally in the human body before--just never in the brain, where it is known to have a profound effect on consciousness when administered.

DMT is also naturally found in many species of animals and plants.

However, this is the first time that DMT has been found in a living brain, and no biochemist can tell you what it does there, or what function it might serve--in the rat brain, or any of the places in the natural world where its found. 

Since our blood-DMT levels tend to rise while we’re asleep at night, a biochemical role in dreaming has been suggested by some neuroscientists. However, this is entirely speculation, and even if this is true, it may also do more. 

Psychiatric researcher Rick Strassman, who conducted a five year study administering DMT to volunteers at the University of New Mexico between 1990 and 1995, has suggested that naturally-elevated DMT levels in the brain may be responsible for such unexplained mental phenomena as  near-death and religious experiences, “spirit” contact, and psychosis. 

Strassman has long suspected that DMT is produced in the pineal gland of the brain, and this new study with rats provides good evidence that it’s probably there in us too.

For thousands of years the pineal gland has been regarded as having a special relationship with the nature of our consciousness, and it is sometime referred to as one’s ‘third eye.” 

It seems that some mystics may have developed an intuitive sense for understanding that the pineal gland secretes a special substance, as DMT may be produced in deep meditation, and could be partially responsible for religious experiences.

Some people have suggested the possibility that elevated DMT levels in the brain might be responsible for ushering the soul into the body before we’re born, and out of the body after we die. 

But we can only speculate what DMT does in the brains of rats. A study at MIT in 2001 demonstrated that rats have complex dreams while they’re sleeping. Perhaps they have religious and near-death experiences as well?

To learn more about about this recent study see: http://www.cottonwoodresearch.org/dmt-pineal-2013/

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Please share any thoughts that you may have about DMT.

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Sam Gandy June 13, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Hi David, this is indeed a really interesting finding! Yet the role DMT plays in ourselves and other species remains completely unknown at this point in time, which only adds to the mystery! However you state "our blood-DMT levels tend to rise while we’re asleep at night"...has there been any research to suggest this or does this remain speculation?
David Jay Brown June 13, 2013 at 03:02 PM
Thank you, Sam--this is a profound mystery indeed! The answer to your question is yes, this has been confirmed. We've known for awhile that DMT is found naturally in the human body, that it easily passes across the blood-brain barrier, and that the pineal gland contains the precursory material to make it. Human DMT blood levels tend to be at their highest at around 3:00 am, which is why it has been suggested to play a role in dreaming.
Sam Gandy November 14, 2013 at 07:13 AM
Hi David, interesting times for sure! I hear you on DMT being endogenous and passing the blood brain barrier, and that the pineal and other brain tissues have the enzymes necessary to make it (the lungs also seem important too). However I haven't heard anything about levels of DMT varying with time of day before, I wasn't aware anyone had looked for this and I consider myself pretty up to date on DMT research, so I'd be very interested to hear more about this.

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