How psychedelic DMT promotes the production of new brain cells

New research suggests the potential for psychedelic drugs to stimulate new neuron production may be able to be separated from the drugs’ hallucinogenic effects.

Robust new research, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, is reporting on several years of animal studies showing how a psychedelic drug called dimethyltryptamine (DMT) can promote brain plasticity and induce the formation of new neurons. The research presents evidence to suggest the hallucinogenic effects of the drug may be able to be separated from this neuron-generating mechanism.

Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic preparation known to be consumed in shamanic and religious contexts by indigenous populations in South America. DMT is the main psychoactive compound in the psychedelic brew, and it has become the focus of a great deal of research due to its profoundly powerful, but short-acting, hallucinogenic qualities.

The recent renaissance in psychedelic science has found hallucinogenic drugs such as psilocybin can induce potent antidepressant effects. Preliminary studies investigating ayahuasca have seen similar antidepressant outcomes. It has been hypothesized that the positive mental health outcomes from these psychedelic compounds stems from their ability to stimulate new neuron production, a process referred to as neurogenesis.

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