How psychedelic DMT promotes the production of new brain cells

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.

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.

This new research, led by a team of Spanish scientists, set out to understand by what mechanism DMT could induce neurogenesis. Across several mouse experiments the study first established DMT does indeed promote acute neurogenesis, and furthermore, these new neurons can be linked to detectable improvements in the animals’ memory and cognition.

Perhaps the most compelling finding in the new research is the confirmation that this psychedelic-induced neurogenesis seems to be produced by a mechanism that is separate to that which generates the drug’s hallucinogenic effect.

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