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5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine: An ego-dissolving endogenous neurochemical catalyst of creativity

By Christopher B. Germann

Posted 16 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/578435 (published DOI: 10.1007/s41470-019-00063-y)

5-Methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (acronymized as 5-MeO-DMT) is sui generis among the numerous naturally-occurring psychoactive substances due to its unparalleled ego-dissolving effects which can culminate in a state of nondual consciousness (which is phenomenologically similar to transformative peak experiences described in various ancient contemplative traditions, e.g., Advaita Vedanta, Mahayana Buddhism). The enigmatic molecule is endogenous to the human brain and has profound psychological effects which are hitherto only very poorly understood due to the absence of scientifically controlled human experimental trials. Its exact neuronal receptor binding profile is a matter of ongoing scientific research, however, its remarkable psychoactivity is presumably mediated via agonism of the 5-HT2A (serotonin) receptor subtype. Anthropological/ethnopharmacological evidence indicates that various cultures utilized 5-MeO-DMT containing plants for medicinal, psychological, and spiritual purposes for millennia. In this paper we argue that this naturally occurring serotonergic compound could be fruitfully utilized as a neurochemical research tool which has the potential to significantly advance our understanding of the cognitive and neuronal processes which underpin cognition and creativity (downregulation of the default-mode network, increased neuronal functional connectivity, etc.). An eclectic interdisciplinary perspective is adopted, and we present converging evidence from a plurality of sources in support of this conjecture. Specifically, we suggest that 5-MeO-DMT has great potential in this respect due to its incommensurable capacity to completely disintegrate self-referential cognitive/neuronal processes (viz., "ego death"). The importance of unbiased systematic scientific research on naturally occurring endogenous psychoactive compounds is discussed from a Jamesian radical empiricism perspective and potential scenarios of abuse are discussed (particularly in the context of military torture).

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