Christopher Timmermann, PhD Candidate
Imperial College London
DMT: Neuroscience, phenomenology and therapeutic potential
Due to its phenomenology and short-acting properties, the study of DMT may provide insights on the mechanisms underlying the transitions of consciousness, states of immersion and its potential use as a therapeutic agent in the context of psychedelic therapy. Our research aimed at determining the mechanisms underlying these aspects associated to DMT administration from a neurophenomenological approach.
Two studies were conducted involving a total of 38 healthy participants in which 59 intravenous doses of DMT and placebo have been administered. Brain activity was measured using EEG and fMRI and subjective responses were captured using real-time intensity ratings and microphenomenological interviews. Finally, the effects of DMT on mental health were assessed using validated measures of depression, anxiety and well-being.
Subjective intensity and visual experiences induced by DMT were inversely correlated with decreases in alpha power as well as increases in Lempel-Ziv complexity and delta/theta power. DMT also induced deactivation of most canonical resting-state networks measured with fMRI, while decreasing segregation between sensory and high-level networks. Finally, DMT administration induced significant reductions in depression and anxiety scores 1-2 weeks following administration compared to placebo. Discussion These findings illustrate neural and phenomenological similarities between the DMT state and other immersive states, such as dreaming, while providing insights on the specific association between different dimensions of experience and their neuronal counterparts. Finally our research highlights the potential for DMT to be used for the treatment of affective disorders and increases in mental health outcomes associated to wellbeing.
Christopher Timmermann hails from Santiago, Chile, where he obtained a BSc in Psychology and subsequently obtained his Neuroscience MSc in Bologna, Italy. He is currently completing a PhD in Imperial College London, leading a project focusing on the effects of DMT in the human brain and experience, while also exploring their application for mental health conditions.