Enzo Tagliazucchi, PhD
University of Buenos Aires
The neural and psychological correlates of inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in natural and ceremonial settings
DMT is remarkable among psychedelics by its relatively short duration and intense, immersive effects. There is very little research conducted on the neural and psychological effects of DMT alone, either administered intravenously or inhaled in freebase form, and none conducted in natural settings. We combined state-of-the-art wireless EEG, psychometric questionnaires, and semantic analysis of free narratives to study the acute effects of inhaled DMT in 40 participants in natural and ceremonial settings, We focused on research questions tuned to the advantages of conducting field research: 1) the effects of contextual factors (music, scents, natural environments), 2) the possibility of studying a comparatively large number of subjects (n=40), and 3) the relaxed mental state of participants consuming DMT in a familiar setting. We observed that the pharmacokinetics of inhaled DMT was very similar to intravenous administration, and that the blocking of the alpha rhythm (8-12 Hz) paralleled the intensity of the effects. We also observed increased gamma (>40 Hz) power, a putative marker of “peak” experiences, that is frequently obscured by muscle artefacts and small samples. These neural effects correlated with different variables related to the experience itself and contextual factors. We performed the first field study on the neural and psychological effects of a serotonergic psychedelic, finding specific strengths of this class of studies that contribute to answer the important question: how much of the knowledge we obtained so far on laboratory experiments extrapolates to natural and ceremonial settings, those where most of these compounds are most frequently consumed?
I studied physics and neuroscience at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and at the University of Frankfurt (Germany), then I held postodoctoral positions in Germany, Amsterdam and Paris. Currently, I am a tenured researcher and professor at the University of Buenos Aires. Leading a collective effort towards the interdisciplinary study of consciousness, I supervise a group of approximately 10 PhD students, postdocs and tenured researchers, coming from an ample range of disciplines (e.g. physics, computer science, biochemistry, psychology, engineering, ethnobotany). We share as common interest to improve our understanding of human consciousness and its two-way relationship with the culture where it is embedded. I published over 60 research articles on altered states of consciousness from different perspectives, including the first neuroimaging study of the acute effects of LSD in humans. Our field studies of the neural and psychological effects of DMT are the first experiments with psychedelics conducted in Argentina, and we expect will be the cornerstone for many future experiments of psychedelics in context. Since the human use of these compounds originates in what is now Latin America, I am highly invested in my “dream project” of creating a Latin American Institute for the study of natural psychedelic molecules consumed in natural environments.