Lab-grown mini-brains dosed with DMT to study psychedelic effects

Mini-brains, like these developed at Brown University, are accurate and cost-effective neural models, and now Brazilian scientists have used them to map the physical effects of the psychedelic drug, DMT

Mini-brains” grown in the lab have proven to be useful models of the real thing, giving researchers an accurate neuroscience platform without testing on animals. Now, a team of scientists from Brazil have doped the mini-brains with a form of the psychedelic drug DMT, to study the effects on neural pathways.

Sometimes called the “spirit molecule”, DMT has been used in North and South American indigenous cultures for mystic and religious experiences, often invoking intense hallucinations. But due to tight restrictions on the drug in many countries and a lack of biological tools to test its effects, it’s hard to tell just what is happening in the brain.

Enter mini-brains. Grown in the lab, these tiny bundles of neural cells can’t think, but they can send electrical signals throughout a natural, three-dimensional structure. That allows scientists to study how the cells develop naturally, as well as what effects injuries or drugs might have, without the need for animal testing.

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