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New Study Shows Ayahuasca Produces a State of “Dreaming While Awake”

While the benefits and risks of micro-dosing LSD and the search for medical uses for psychedelic mushrooms get most of the attention, another less popular, more potent and deeply mystical psychedelic drug is quietly being tested in London and the results are helping researchers understand the drug, the dream-like hallucinations it creates and the dream state it apparently puts the brain into. That drug is ayahuasca, and the active ingredient DMT (dimethyltryptamine) may seems to cause the closest thing to a natural dream creation state that researchers have ever seen – a “dreaming while awake” condition that matches dream state brain waves on an EEG.

“It feels more real than real.”

Sounding more like ayahuasca fans Sting and Chelsea Handler, Christopher Timmermann, a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London and co-author of a paper on the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, tells LiveScience that this study of ayahuasca and DMT was not intended to research dreams but to look at the various experiences users have described, including being “completely and radically immersed” in an alternative world, experiencing extreme emotions and having feelings similar to those described by near-death-experience survivors.

In a controlled environment, six female and seven male volunteers were hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG) while receiving an intravenous dose of DMT or a placebo. Each were tested twice and not told what was in the IV. As the drug quickly took effect, Timmeraman and his team watched three brain waves for changes – alpha waves, which are regular oscillations showing a conscious state; delta waves, which are generated in deepest meditation and dreamless sleep; and theta waves, which indicate a dream state.

What Timmerman’s team saw was surprising. Alpha waves decreased, which is typical in psychedelic drug use, but the delta and theta waves oscillated in the same way they do during REM sleep – when we’re dreaming. Moreover, the EEGs showed the DMT users’ overall electrical brain activity became unpredictable, also an indication of a dream state rather than deep non-dream sleep, deep meditation or a coma-like state.

“(This) is interesting because it postulates this potential idea that psychedelics might be increasing consciousness, if you will.”

Users of psychedelic drugs already knew that, but it’s important for researchers to have proof when attempting to legalize them for medical use, which is part of the intent of the study. Ayahuasca tea drinks will also point out that the amount normally taken is far larger that the micro-dose injected in these tests and the effects last for hours, not 20 minutes. Timmerman told LiveScience that the next tests will increase the dosage.

“Physiologically, DMT is very safe and the toxicity profile is quite good. The only caveat is that people can have strong psychological experiences when they take it in unsupervised contexts.”

That gets another “Duh!” from ayahuasca users, who may not have a problem with EEG monitors stuck to their skin, but might freak out during the next tests which will be conducted using use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which requires remaining motionless for an hour or more in a loud cylinder.

Maybe Sting might be interested. He could use some experiences for a new album. Here’s your title, Sting:

“It Feels More Real Than Real.”

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Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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