The human experience is a complex one with many underlying mysteries embedded throughout the journey. Beginning from the “Zinc Flash” immediately following the moment of conception, to lucid dreaming, to experiencing the joy of eating a super burrito, the exhilaration of “Aha” moments, and ultimately to the moment of death in which the brain exudes elevated synchronous activity indicating a heightened state of consciousness. Humans are a unique species in that the sheer array of potential experiences can be quite vast.
The popularity of the discussion surrounding DMT has continued to grow quite considerably since the 2010 release of the documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule. This documentary includes interviews and insights from a multitude of scientists including the sole DMT researcher in the 1990’s Dr. Rick Strassman. Throughout the video, the subjects would openly speculate on the potential implications of DMT in relation to perception and the complexities of reality. Strassman’s research took place at the University of New Mexico and would administer various levels of DMT via intravenous injection to human volunteers. While his research would remain straightforward by documenting changes in physiology such as blood pressure, biochemical fluctuations in the blood, heart rate, and pupil dilation, detailed experiential reports were included in his book also titled DMT: The Spirit Molecule. One of the most overlooked yet intriguing findings from his research was that when DMT was administered at sub-psychedelic doses (meaning below the hallucinogenic threshold), volunteers reported feelings of euphoria.
‘The lowest dose of DMT, 0.05mg/kg, was pleasant, and almost all volunteers said they felt like smiling or laughing after receiving it. One volunteer who previously had used heroin thought this dose felt something like that drug: “There was a warm cotton batting sensation.” A few people experienced relatively intense effects from this little bit of DMT we gave on the first day. This warned us that the next day’s large dose might be especially powerful.’ – Dr. Rick Strassman
One of the most interesting aspects of DMT has to do with it being a chemical found endogenously within the human body. This means that the administration of DMT from an outside source is unnecessary to create DMT within ourselves. There has been much speculation regarding the potentiality of endogenous DMT to be involved in significant changes in perception such as during near death experiences (NDE’s), dreaming, out of body experiences (OBE’s), hallucinatory phenomena, and even psychiatric disorders. However, in light of the findings in Strassman’s study that sub-psychedelic levels of exogenous DMT induced distinct emotional changes… endogenous DMT could also be a modulator of more subtle experiences such as states of euphoria.When Strassman published his book in 2000 and the documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule was released in 2010, there had yet to be any scientific evidence of DMT produced in the pineal gland. While the pineal gland has long been associated with the “third eye” within mystical traditions, it wasn’t until 2013 at Dr. Jimo Borjigin’s lab at the University of Michigan that it was verified that the pineal gland produced DMT. It was also confirmed that the pineal gland contained the enzymatic precursors (AADC/INMT) necessary for DMT production. While this study would take place in live rats, the similar neuroanatomy between rats and humans lead scientists to believe this finding is translatable to humans. This finding created a surge of interest on the internet as the public who had speculated on the “third eye” as being the source of endogenous DMT finally felt validated. Nevertheless the debate on whether the pineal gland was truly capable of producing endogenous DMT to a sufficient level to induce a “mystical” experience was still hotly debated within scientific circles.
In 2013 and 2016, the Hungarian researcher Dr. Ede Frecska would publish papers regarding the anti-inflammatory and cellular protective roles of DMT based on it’s effect on the Sigma-1 receptor. This created some interest among the general public from the perspective that DMT within the human body might actually be a good thing. Frecksa’s research indicated that DMT could have multiple roles in the body outside of solely inducing hallucinatory phenomena. Prior studies in the 1970’s attempting to link endogenous DMT with psychiatric disorders were deemed inconclusive based on the lack of consistency of results.
While UFC commentator and podcaster Joe Rogan has played a very significant role in popularizing the DMT discussion over the past decade, in early 2019, former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson would send the popularity of DMT soaring to an ever higher level. Tyson would ingest a version of DMT known as 5-MEO aka “The Toad” (also endogenous to humans) during one of his own podcasts. Following his ingestion of 5-MEO he would continue to discuss the transformative experience on various media outlets including ESPN.
In 2018, researchers from the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil would conduct a study attempting to compare urinary levels of DMT from individuals reporting psychic medium experiences versus regular volunteers. The study proved inconclusive as the levels of DMT in the nocturnal urine samples were undetectable in both groups of volunteers.
In 2019, Jon Dean from the University of Michigan published a study in Scientific Reports that presented numerous significant findings regarding endogenous DMT. One of the data points indicate that DMT is produced not only in the pineal gland but also at the choroid plexus and throughout the cerebral cortex. This is significant in light of whether the brain can produce enough DMT to stimulate a visionary experience. Instead of relying on a tiny gland (pineal) to produce DMT for the entire brain, it appears as though DMT is produced throughout many different parts of the brain. Another key finding from Dean’s paper is that the levels of extracellular DMT throughout the brain were similar to that of the commonly researched neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. This is an intriguing piece of data based on what is currently known about the effects of serotonin and dopamine on mood, perception, and emotion. If endogenous DMT levels are found to be at similar levels as these two biochemicals, it indicates that DMT is likely playing a key role in modulating our everyday waking perception both visually and emotionally. The third data point showed that DMT levels had increased by 600% in the visual cortex of rats following cardiac arrest. This provides some support to the hypothesis that DMT is upregulated in the brain during near death experiences (NDE’s) and is a potential catalyst for the the visionary experience.
In speaking with Dean regarding his research, his future interests consist of developing non-invasive technology to measure endogenous DMT in live, human subjects. This seems like it could be quite a challenge yet the implications are far-reaching. Currently there are simply no ways to create animal models for practices such as meditation, hypnosis, and breathing exercises (Wim Hof Method, Holotropic, Pranayama). These methods of inducing altered states have been speculated to upregulate endogenous DMT coinciding with distinct changes in perception but without the technology to measure DMT within the brain non-invasively, there lacks the data to verify it. Periphery blood, saliva, or urine measurements (as cited in the 2018 study from Brazil) would lack the sensitivity and real-time fluctuation measurements to be of any significance.
In addition, Dean’s University of Michigan lab mate and PhD candidate Nicolas Glynos is in the process of developing some very interesting endogenous DMT projects. One of the areas of research Glynos is undertaking at the Borjigin Lab is verifying the relationship between endogenous DMT and gamma wave activity in the brain. Gamma waves are considered to be the fastest type of measurable brain waves and have been found to be upregulated during meditation, moments of insight (“Aha” moments), near death experiences (NDE’s), and REM sleep. Currently Glynos is in the process of comparing INMT-knockout animals (rats that do not have the enzyme for DMT synthesis) and regular animals to observe whether the gamma band is disrupted. Another intriguing study Glynos discussed is attempting to replicate the unpublished study cited by Dr. Steven Barker in an excerpt from the documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Barker stated that they observed that following LSD administration to rats, it was found that endogenous DMT levels were increased 400% and endogenous 5-MEO levels were increased 1000%. This led Barker to hypothesize that there lies the possibility that many classical hallucinogens might be inducing their effects by stimulating the endogenous hallucinatory system.
So the question we must answer is why? Why is DMT research the most important and exciting area of research in all of science?
Scientific endeavors that lack public interest and inspiration of discourse essentially cease to exist in the minds of the masses. This is obviously not the case with DMT. The speculative discussions regarding this endogenous psychedelic span globally across all cultures. The importance of DMT research surrounds the fact that it can provide insights into these discussions based on scientific data. Excessive speculation can lead to unnecessary postulations that fall quite a ways outside the domain of current mainstream understanding.
While foundational science regarding endogenous DMT such as primary receptor affinity, identification of neuronal and cellular secretion, and downstream effects of metabolites are primarily interesting for the scientists in the field, they are also necessary in order to establish DMT in the manner that serotonin and dopamine have been. However, in conjunction with this foundational science there could be additional studies to answer long held questions such as… do visions during meditation coincide with increases in DMT in the brain? Does DMT get released at greater levels during dreams? Is there a correlation between mental imagery/visualizations and DMT surges? Is there any relationship between the placebo effect and endogenous DMT? Does breathing exercises such as the Wim Hof Method increase DMT? Does the “Out of Body Experience” correlate with DMT increases in the brain? Is there a connection between changes in the geomagnetic field of the earth and alterations in DMT secretion leading to evolutionary leaps?
In an era of great division among people across the world, DMT is a unifying topic of conversation. It highlights how similar we are regardless of race, religion, gender, and every other label used to categorize and divide each other. Perhaps endogenous DMT is one of the reasons that all religions and forms of spirituality have been developed in terms of a “mystical” experience that provided insights into the human experience.
The exciting aspect of this field of research is based on many factors including but not limited to opening up the public to share experiences they might normally feel tentative to discuss. The field of DMT research could help provide a convening point of discussion with one another especially in regards to transformative experiences. As more and more people feel comfortable sharing their experiences with each other, it increases the knowledge base of the world and allows us to better understand all facets of the human experience… normal, abnormal, and supernormal. There are also aspects of the DMT-Gamma wave correlation as gamma wave disruption has been observed in various forms of neurological dysfunction including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In 2016, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) observed that inducing gamma waves via light flicker devices reduced levels of beta-amyloid proteins and also boosted the activity of microglia. A 2016 animal study published in BMC Neuroscience observed that restoration of gamma wave activity led to the spontaneous remission of depressive behavior induced by chronic stress. DMT research has many functional applications as well as playing a big role in unraveling the physiological mechanics of the proposed “supernatual”.
Developing a model of reality based on baseline consciousness in which the majority of the public experiences the majority of their day is an inherently limited endeavor. Opening up the conversation as to the possibilities of experience and potentially deeper meanings for existence is an exciting potential for DMT science. It is conversation and communication that change the world.
The conversation regarding DMT is already here… now it’s just time that the scientific inquiry of endogenous DMT is supported to the level that the public demands. This is the entire premise of DMT Quest. Our mission is to create public awareness that this field of research needs financial support in order to accelerate the number of research taking place in order to realize its potential impact. While the 2013 pineal gland-DMT study and the ground-breaking 2019 study are extremely important points of data, with more financial support these scientists can hire the necessary staff in order to carry out and publish multiple experiments each year. As the psychedelic renaissance continues and an increasing number of philanthropists support the research going into psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA based on commercialization opportunities… the endogenous psychedelic DMT, 5-MEO-DMT, and Endohuasca in totality are not currently being philanthropically supported on the same level. This will undoubtedly change in the future but our mission is to accelerate this change so that we may see the ground-breaking studies within our lifetimes.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in helping support the scientific researchers in the space of endogenous DMT.
DMT Quest is a non-profit 501(c)3 dedicated to raising awareness and funds for endogenous DMT Research. This specific field of psychedelic research has been underfunded for many decades now. It’s time to take our understanding of human physiology, abilities, and perception to the next level. You can also follow us at Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.