Christopher B. Germann
N,N-Dimethyltryptamine: An endogenous
neurotransmitter with extraordinary effects.
Christopher B. Germann (2016)
Marie Curie Fellow
University of Plymouth, Cognition Institute - CogNovo, Plymouth, United Kingdom.
In memoriam of Dr. Martha Blassnigg (*08.09.1969; †27.09.2015) who went home much too soon.
he most complex physical object in the known universe is the human brain
and the most complex mental phenomenon is the human psyche. Human-
kind has travelled through outer space and we now possess detailed charts of
the moon and many other extraterrestrial objects. However, hitherto modern
science is unable to provide a comprehensive cartography of the varieties of
human experience (Fisher, 1971), despite the efforts of the extraordinary
Swiss depth psychologist Carl Gustav Jung who provided a rudimentary
“skeletal” map of the psyche. Ergo, the great frontiers of 21st century science
are internal and psychological and it should be psychologies primary focus to
systematically chart these largely unexplored “antipodes of mind” – the
“terra incognita” – as Aldous Huxley eloquently formulated it (Huxley, 1956,
p.71). In this context, it has been effectively argued that the discovery of
several unique psychoactive chemical substances is methodologically as
important to the study of the mind as the invention of the microscope to
progress in chemistry or the telescope to astronomy (Grof, 2000, p.297).
This paper reviews a powerful endogenous psychoactive agent, N,N-Dimeth-
yltryptamine (DMT, a structural analog of serotonin and melatonin), which
catalyses unique and highly astonishing phenomenological experiences. An
eclectic, interdisciplinary approach is adopted and DMTs pertinence for
systematic research in psychology and neuroscience is discussed.
Keywords N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, 5-hydroxytryptamine, phytochemis-
try, cognition, perception, neuroscience, psychology.
What is mind? No matter.
What is matter? Never mind.
George Berkeley (1685-1753)
In this classic couplet, Bishop Berkeley concisely addressed the quintes-
sential philosophical question concerning the fundamental relationship
between mind and matter (note that he employs Cartesian dualistic termi-
nology; i.e., res extensa vs. res cogitans).
e question Berkley poses is the following: Can mind/consciousness
ultimately be explained in a purely materialistic framework (is “it” reducible
to neurobiological mechanisms, molecules, atoms, etc. pp.)? Vice versa, the
quote addresses the inverse question: Can the totality of physical reality (in
Lockeian nomenclature, the entirety of “primary and secondary qualities”)
be accounted for solely in terms of mind? In other terms, is the material
world an idealistic creation of the mind, as many ancient eastern metaphys-
ical wisdom traditions postulate (experience, then, is the sole reality and the
observer/subject and the observed/object are of identical nature; e.g., Bhaga-
vad Gītā, Vedānta, Rigvedas, Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali)? is paradoxical
conundrum is a deep-rooted perennial problem in the philosophy of mind
and it has recently become a topic of interest for many neuroscientists.
Neurochemistry of cognition
Contemporary materialistic reductionist neuroscience emanates from the
provisional working hypothesis that the underpinnings of human cognition,
perception, and consciousness are electrochemical. at is, electrical action
potentials and chemical neurotransmission are hypothesized to ontologically
cause these phenomena. However, it is possible that this unproven assump-
tion might eventually turn out to be a case of epistemological naiveté.
Nevertheless, it is an established scientific fact that there are certain classes
Christopher B. Germann
of material substances that affect consciousness reliably (the terms con-
sciousness and mind are consequently used synonymously). However, not
any arbitrary substance can alter the mind. e mind-altering substances in
question have precisely defined molecular structures, which in turn cause
very specific effects. For instance, there are certain psychoactive substances
that induce sedation (for instance, Diazepam). is particular sedative is
a specific case of a much larger chemical class (i.e., the Benzodiazepine fami-
ly). us, there appears to be a systematic correlation between the chemical
structure of certain compounds and the psychological effects they induce (in
psychopharmacology this is known as the structure-activity relationship).
Interestingly, especially from a neurochemistry/biology point of view, sever-
al naturally occurring secondary (possibly semiotic) plant compounds have
close structural relationships with various mammalian (including human)
neurotransmitters and can consequently bind to specific cell membrane
receptors in the brain. ereby, these chemicals can reliably change a variety
of cognitive and perceptual processes (both quantitatively and qualitatively).
N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (abbreviated as DMT) is a prototypical exemplar
of such psychoactive chemicals (DMT has been oxymoronically referred
to as “the spirit molecule”; but see Strassman, 2001). e receptor binding
affinity of DMT is complex and hitherto only partially understood. Howev-
er, it has been firmly established that DMT non-selectively agonises several
members of the 5-HT
(5-hydroxytryptamin also known as Serotonin)
receptor family (especially the 5-HT
and 5-HT
receptor appear to be
crucial for its psychoactive effects; but see McKenna et al., 1990; Aghajani-
an & Marek, 1999; Keiser et al., 2009). Except for the 5-HT
receptor, all
5-HT receptors achieve transmembrane signal transduction via the G-pro-
tein-coupled receptors. Recently, important fundamental research on the G
protein-coupled receptor led to a series of Nobel Prizes (e.g., in 2000, 2004,
and 2012).
Moreover, it has recently been demonstrated that DMT is an endogenous
receptor regulator (Fontanilla et al., 2009;) and it has been hypothe-
sized that it plays a mediative role in tissue protection, regeneration, and
immunity (Frecska et al., 2013). From a chemical point of view, DMT is a
prototypical representative member of the indolealkylamine family known
as tryptamines. In its pure form, DMT is a white/clear, pungent-smelling,
crystalline solid. Its molecular structural geometry visualized in Figure 1 is
closely related to Serotonin.
From a phylogenetic perspective, DMT is an evolutionary very old mole-
cule which is ubiquitously present in the plant and animal kingdom (Smith,
1977). In 1961, Nobel Prize laureate Julius Axelrod reported in the journal
Science that the enzyme N-methyltransferase in a rabbit’s lung is able to
mediate the biotransformation of tryptamine into DMT (Axelrod, 1961).
More recent converging evidence strongly suggests that DMT is an endoge-
nous neurotransmitter in the human brain (e.g., Cozzi, et al., 2011; Fonta-
nilla, et al., 2009; Cozzi, et al., 2009). Surprisingly, DMT is actively trans-
ported into the brain via the blood-brain-barrier (a process that is costly
in energetic terms because it requires movement against the concentration
gradient). is factum has been discovered by Japanese scientists 30 years
ago (i.e., Yanai et al., 1986). Given that the brain in an extremely sensitive
homeostatic organ, it constantly protects itself from toxins and undesired
agents. Consequently, the blood-brain-barrier is highly selective and only
very few essential compounds like glucose and other essential nutrients are
actively moved across this membrane into the brains tissue. e phenome-
non that DMT is actively transported across this protective barrier suggests
that it plays a crucial role in ordinary brain metabolism. Moreover, DMT
does not built up tolerance, as other psychoactive tryptamines do (no signif-
Figure 1. Compounds such as psilocin (synonymous with 4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, a precursor of
psilocybin which is also known as O-phosphoryl-4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) and DMT (N,N-Dimeth-
yltryptamine) have chemical structures that resemble the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine). is
structural similarity to serotonin allows them to stimulate serotonin-sensitive neurons. Note that the intermolecular
serotonin motif is embedded in both structures.
Christopher B. Germann
icant desensitisation after repeated administration; see Strassman & Qualls,
1994; Strassman et al., 1994) and it is quickly metabolised (consequently
its duration of action is relatively short-lived) . Again, this indicates that it
is a natural building block of mammalian neurochemistry. At the moment,
there is no explanation as to why mammals have evolved an endogenous
neurotransmitter that is able to produce profoundly altered states of con-
sciousness. From an evolutionary point of view one has to ask the question:
What is the adaptive advantage of this compound in terms of survival or re-
production? However, given that the intracellular cascade triggered by DMT
is not yet fully understood it seems very difficult to imagine that science is
soon able to account for its much more intricate effects on perception and
consciousness (the hard problem) from a quantitative point of view.
DMTs qualitative phenomenology
From a psychological vantage point, DMT has very remarkable effects, too.
One of DMTs most salient activity characteristics is that it affects visual
perception in the most spectacular ways possibly imaginable. In addition,
it profoundly changes the functioning of a multitude of core cognitive
capacities. A brief (though incomplete) synopsis of DMTs subjective effects
is summarised in the following list:
Profound changes in sensory perception across modalities (e.g., per-
ceptual distortions, vivid cross-modal hallucinations, visions, synaes-
Highly symmetric and oftentimes fractal multidimensional visual hal-
lucinations of astonishing beauty and complexity
Spectacular visual percepts (impossible objects which are essentially
Subjective experience of extrasensory perceptions (e.g., telepathic phe-
nomena are commonly reported)
Changes in time and space perception (e.g., time dilation, timelessness/
experience of infinity/eternity, limitlessness/omnipresence)
Journey-like “breakthrough into hyperspace” (trans-dimensional travel
into parallel dimension and contact with conscious “otherworldly hu-
manoid beings” is commonly reported under high doses of DMT)
Altered body image (e.g., out-of-body-experience, taking on an animal/
alien body)
Intense changes in mood (ranging across the whole spectrum of emo-
tions from total serenity/bliss to extreme terror)
Sense of profound meaning and deep spiritual insights (e.g., gnosis)
Experience of very profound “mystical states
Dissolution of ego boundaries (e.g., ego-death, shared consciousness)
Feelings of interconnectedness (e.g., communion with nature, monistic
all-is-one experience)
State of union and spontaneous realisation of oneness (nonduality, yoga)
• Near-death experience
Experience of emptiness, nothingness, pure I-am-ness
Feelings of tranquillity
Being freed from ones body and becoming integrated with ones cos-
mic nature
Feeling of sudden realisation of ones homogenous cosmic essence
State of inner harmony (Samadhi)
Experience of a transcendental reality
Collapse of ego-ignorance phantom (dissolution of self-limitation)
Transformation of self-perception, transmutation of entire being
Expansion of awareness (experience of boundless primordial awareness)
Experience of higher states of consciousness
Feelings of awe and wonder
Feeling of awakening from an illusion to a larger “more real” reality
Appreciation of nature (perception of nature as animated and alive,
Sudden insights into the nature of self and the nature of reality (epiph-
any or “satori” like experience - seeing into ones true nature)
Access to unconscious “Jungian alchemical archetypal” information
Potential adverse effects
Acute panic reaction (depending on idiosyncratic personality structure
and situation)
Christopher B. Germann
Substance induced psychosis (ICD-10 diagnosis code F16.5 – low
incidence rate)
Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (DSM-IV diagnosis code
292.89 – low incidence rate)
e following paragraphs reprint two experiences reported by research sub-
jects who participated in Rick Strassmans early DMT which were conduct-
ed in Mexico in the 1990s.
e trip started with an electric tingling in my body, and quickly the visual
hallucinations arrived. en I noticed five or six figures walking rapidly along-
side me. ey felt like helpers, fellow travelers. A humanoid male figure turned
toward me, threw his right arm up toward the patchwork of bright colors,
and asked, “How about this?” e kaleidoscopic patterns immediately became
brighter and moved more rapidly. A second and then a third asked and did the
same thing. At that point, I decided to go further, deeper. I immediately saw
a bright yellow-white light directly in front of me. I chose to open to it. I was
consumed by it and became part of it. ere were no distinctions—no figures
or lines, shadows or outlines. ere was no body or anything inside or outside. I
was devoid of self, of thought, of time, of space, of a sense of separateness or ego,
or of anything but the white light. ere are no symbols in my language that can
begin to describe that sense of pure being, oneness, and ecstasy. ere was a great
sense of stillness and ecstasy.” (excerpt taken from Strassman, 2001; p.244)
“Eight minutes into his non-blind high-dose injection, he described this
at was real strange. ere were a lot of elves. ey were prankish, ornery,
maybe four of them appeared at the side of a stretch of interstate highway I
travel regularly. ey commanded the scene, it was their terrain! ey were
about my height. ey held up placards, showing me these incredibly beautiful,
complex, swirling geometric scenes in them. One of them made it impossible
for me to move. ere was no issue of control; they were totally in control. ey
wanted me to look! I heard a giggling sound - the elves laughing or talking at
high-speed volume, chattering, twittering.” (excerpt taken from Strassman,
2001, p. 188).
It should be noted that the phenomenological experiences reported under
the influence of DMT are interindividually very heterogeneous (perhaps
partially due to a combination of genetically coded neurotransmitter
receptor polymorphisms and idiosyncratic psychological variables) and are
contingent upon set and setting (that is, internal psychological and external
situational factors play an important role). However, several phenomenolo-
gies are reliably induced across diverse subjects (e.g., complex visual halluci-
nations, out-of-body-experiences, trans-dimensional travels, etc.).
Space does not permit a detailed discussion of DMTs experiential phenom-
enology, particularly because linguistic expressions are circuitous and often
largely inadequate in order to convey its diverse spectrum of psychologi-
cal effects (ineffability is a defining hallmark of the translinguistic DMT
ontology which reaches far beyond the bounds of human imagination).
e perceptions and insights that are catalysed by this compound are often
described as being at total invariance with the socially grounded models of
contemporary western paradigms. Interestingly, several of DMTs structural
analogues (e.g., Psilocybin, a compound which is present in the “magic
mushrooms which are endemic to the UK, Mantle & Waight, 1969; see
also Figure 1) have phenomenologically comparable though not identical ef-
fects (cf. Hasler et al., 2004). However, hitherto the extraordinary cognitive
changes triggered by DMT cannot be accounted for by any of the existing
theoretical frameworks provided by neuroscience and psychology.
Endogenous but prohibited
Despite the exceptional characteristics of DMT and its ubiquity in nature,
many mainstream psychologists and even professional neuroscientists are
utterly unaware of its existence (presumably, due to academic overspecial-
isation and the fact that the conventional neuroscience textbooks do not
mention it at all, e.g., Gazzaniga & Mangun, 2014; Kolb & Whishaw,
2009). Furthermore, systematic and methodologically valid research is
highly restricted due to the fact that DMT is classified as a “Class A drug”
in the UK and similarly tightly regulated as a “Schedule I substance” in the
US. is classification is clearly not evidence based and it inhibits scientific
Christopher B. Germann
progress and innovation (let alone the fact that it violates the principle of
cognitive liberty, that is, the right to mental self-determination).
In this context, it is noteworthy that the Brazilian União do Vegetal (UDV
- www.udv.org.br) was granted precedential legal permission to use a DMT
containing drink (named Ayahuasca) in their ceremonies. e UDV, which
is claiming roots as far back as the 10
century BC, utilises Ayahuasca in
a program of spiritual evolution based on mental concentration and the
search for self-knowledge. From a juridical point of view, it is very interest-
ing that the US Supreme Court adjudicated in 2006 that the UDV is legally
permitted to deploy Ayahuasca as a religious sacrament (under the protec-
tion of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”).
Ayahuasca: An ancient phytochemical synergy
From a much larger historical perspective, DMT has been utilized for
spiritual/shamanistic rituals for millennia by several ancient cultural tradi-
tions. As mentioned before, it constitutes the active pharmacological princi-
ple in Ayahuasca, a plant based, drinkable concoction, which is traditionally
used by indigenous tribes in the Amazonian rainforest for divinatory and
healing purposes. In itself, DMT is orally inactive because the monoamine
oxidase (MAO) system within the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract deaminates it.
However, somehow the aboriginals have developed sophisticated intuitive
knowledge concerning its combinatorial pharmacodynamics. In order to
prevent DMTs decomposition in the gut, they mix it with a plant-based
MAO inhibitor.
To be specific, the typical primary ingredients of the Ayahuasca brew consist
of two plants, Psychotria Viridis (which contains the DMT) and Baniste-
riopsis Caapi (which contains the ȕ-carboline harmala alkaloid designated
as harmine). Harmine functions as a selective and reversible inhibitors of
the enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) that prevents the enzymatic
breakdown of DMT in the GI-tract, thereby allowing it to be transported
via the blood-brain barrier. Hence, it is the combination of these two plants,
which enables DMT to become psychoactive. Quite thought-provokingly,
the chemical literature labelled Harmine for some time as telepathine. is
chemical was so named because of the effects reported by Amazonian tribal
members (e.g., telepathic communication, clairvoyance, precognition, psy-
chic diagnosis, necromancy).
Western science has just relatively recently learned about DMT and its psy-
choactive effects from ethnophamacologists who were able to conserve this
ancient cultural knowledge literally in the last minute because old shamanic
traditions are being extinguished at a fast pace by the modern industri-
al world. e inhabitants of the Amazonian rainforest have a very close
relationship with, what they call “plant-spirits”. ey regard Ayahuasca as
a wise “plant teacher” which enables them to communicate with the “spirit
world” (Beyer, 2009). It should be noted that in the shamanic paradigm the
dichotomy between spiritual and medicinal is not clear-cut as the European
heritage suggests and “sacred” plants play a central role in these traditional
indigenous contexts.
Unfortunately, the Amazonian rainforests are currently being destroyed at a
very alarming rate. e Amazonian biodiversity is among the richest in the
world, although the number of species in the red list of the IUCN (Inter-
national Union for Conservation of Nature) is growing steadily every year.
e destruction of the natural environment goes hand in hand with the loss
of culturally embedded ancient folk-knowledge concerning the utilisation
of specific plants for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Moreover, younger
generations are not very interested in the continuation of the Shamanic
traditions of their predecessors. ey prefer to move into modern technolo-
gized cities in order to take their place in the materialistic market economy
and consequently thousands of years of accumulated and potentially highly
valuable information is lost in this cultural transition.
Brevity does not permit me to review many intriguing aspects of this multi-
faceted topic (e.g., DMTs relation to psychological conditioning/extinction,
neurogenesis, neuroplasticity, psychoneuroindocrinology, psychoimmunol-
ogy, epigenetics, and the neuroanatomical correlates of its effects). I could
Christopher B. Germann
only try to provide a very rudimentary introduction to this fascinating
newly emerging research domain. It should be emphasized that this subject
(psychoactive plant compounds and human cognition, perception, and con-
sciousness) is located at the cutting edge of modern cognitive neuroscience
and psychology and it encompasses many other adjacent disciplines (e.g.,
physics, chemistry, botany, pharmacology, psychiatry, anthropology, histo-
ry, archaeology, philosophy, religion, medicine, art, law, ethics, etc. pp.; cf.
Bois-Mariage, 2002).). I am convinced that many researchers will develop a
deep interest for this topic if they have not already done so.
For further information, the interested reader is referred to the book
“DMT: e spirit molecule” by Rick Strassman (2001) who was the first to
conduct FDA approved rigorous scientific human trials with DMT in the
1990s. His book provides a comprehensive synopsis of DMTs neurochemis-
try and its experiential phenomenology. Strassman hypothesized back in the
90s that DMT might be present in the human pineal gland. is hypothesis
was largely ignored by the scientific community. However, his prediction
has recently been partially corroborated. In 2013, researchers first report-
ed the presence of DMT in rodent pineal gland microdialysate (Barker, et
al., 2013). e pineal is a photoreceptive endocrine gland whose primarily
known function is the regulation of the circadian rhythm via the secretion
of melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxy tryptamine), another serotonergic mem-
ber of the tryptamine family (but see Reiter, 1991). Because the photosensi-
tive pinealocytes have a strong resemblance to the photoreceptor cells of the
eye, the pineal gland has also been labelled as the “third parietal eye” (Eakin,
1973). It has been subject to much speculation since Claudius Galenus and
later René Descartes who famously termed it the “principal seat of the soul”.
Future research directions
To conclude, I would like to delineate some potentially fruitful directions
for future research on DMT and formulate several empirically testable
DMT and its vastly more potent relatives (e.g., 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyl-
tryptamine acronymized as 5-Meo-DMT) might lead to the discovery of new
classes of neurotransmitter systems (cf. the discovery of the endocannabinoid
system) that would deepen our understanding of basic neurochemistry and
may ultimately lead to the design of new pharmacological agents in order to
treat mental pathologies (cf. Jacob & Presti, 2005) or to enhance cognition
(e.g., nootropics) or expand consciousness in the healthy population.
Another research agenda should focus the role of DMT and its relatives in
molecular biology. e National Genome Research Institute published data
that indicates that the costs of genetic sequencing (DNA micro arrays) are
decreasing fast than Moores law for computational performance predicts
(http://genome.gov/sequencingcosts). is development opens up unprece-
dented large-scale analytic possibilities for the newly emerging discipline of
neurogenetics. For example, in analogy to the genome, the proteome, and
the connectome, the receptorome aims to map the total number of genes
that code for receptors and receptor molecules in the brain. In this regard,
it has recently been argued in a paper titled “Psychedelics and the Human
Receptorome” that “it should be possible to use this diverse set of drugs
(psychedelics) as probes into the roles played by the various receptor systems
in the human mind” (Ray, 2010, p.1; content in bracket added).
e neurochemical correlates of the various meditative states of mind are
another vibrant research topic. Researchers have observed statistically sig-
nificant overlap between the neural correlates of mediation and psychedelic
experiences. Consequently, there might be a significant degree of overlap
between the neurochemical substrates of these altered states of mind. In this
regards, the influence of DMT on microtubule (neuronal microstructures
which form part of the cytoskeleton) should be a focal point of systematic
scrutiny (but see Hameroff & Penrose, 2014).
Recent research provides evidence that DMT has psychoneuroendocrin-
ological and psychoneuroimmunological effects (Frecska et al., 2023).
Fascinatingly, it has been shown in a publication by Epel et al. in 2009
(co-authored by Nobel Prize laureate Elizabeth Blackburn) that mediation
influences telomere length (an indicator of biological age). Given that
Christopher B. Germann
DMT and various related psychoactive tryptaminergic compounds induce
states of mind that are partially qualitatively congruent with the mental
states achieved by meditative practices it seems likely that the experienc-
es triggered by DMT also have the potential to positively affect telomere
length (e.g., via telomerase activity). Based on the assumption that DMT
can induce robust longitudinal changes on various levels (physical and
psychological) it seems likely that genetic changes are involved. Future
research should focus on the (epi)genetic fundament of these changes (how
gene methylation/transcription/ expression is altered following exposure to
psychoactive substances).
Another line of research should investigate the interplay between quantum
physical phenomena and altered states of consciousness. e theoretical
framework of quantum physics ascribes a pivotal role to consciousness (e.g.,
Schrödingers wave equation). Consequently, substances which profoundly
change the main pillar of this theoretical tenet (that is, consciousness and
the associated mechanics of perception) should be of significant interest to
the physics community. e disciplines of physics and psychology should
pursue a close interdisciplinary discourse and collaborations in order to
combine their efforts and insights (this has happened before, for instance,
the physicists Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli were in close communica-
tion with depth-psychologist C.G. Jung).
Yet another auspicious line of research is an investigation of the effects of
DMT on creative thinking and cognitive flexibility (i.e., DMT as a catalyst
for creativity and innovation; cf. Frecska et al., 2012). Given that DMTs
phenomenology deconstructs conventional orthodox cultural worldviews it
has the potential to facilitate novel perspectives on multifarious philosophi-
cal questions and might even contribute to the resolution of “hard” scientif-
ic problems (cf. Willis, et al., 1966).
ere is much more scientific virgin that soil awaits thorough investigation.
A largely unexploited research area comprises of careful empirical tracings
of the effects of various non-naturally occurring synthetic psychoactive
tryptamines which have been developed by the pioneering chemist Alexan-
der Shulgin (see Shulgin & Shulgin, 1997). His work entails an extensive
chemical toolbox for future work in neuroscience and psychology. In his
book “TiHKAL - Tryptamines I have known and loved” he provides a
detailed index of more than 50 psychedelic compounds (many developed
by himself). e book entails a description of their synthesis, exact chemical
structures, dosage recommendations, and qualitative comments. Most of
these compounds have yet to be rigorously researched – a task for the next
generation of curious and open-minded scientists. To provide an intriguing
example, one of the tryptamines described by Shulgin is DiPT (Diisopro-
pyltryptamine). It has unique properties because it does almost exclusively
affect the auricular sense (i.e., nonlinear shifts in pitch perception - other
sensory modalities remain largely unaffected). It is apparent that DiPT
should be of keen interest to researchers trying to understand the neural
basis of auditory perception. However, up until now systematic research has
not been conducted (experimental ornithological studies of avian vocalisa-
tion/bioacoustics might be a fertile starting point).
Finally yet importantly, the experiences DMT evokes are of particular fasci-
nation to artists, for obviously reasons (e.g., Grey, 2012). Several visionary
artists have been deeply inspired by their transcendental experiences with
DMT and related compounds (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: e net of being by Alex Grey (inspired by the Mahayanian metaphor of Indra's net).
Further artworks created by Alex Grey are available under the following URL: http://alexgrey.com/art/
Christopher B. Germann
Finally, it remains an open question why DMT (and its structural relatives)
are not part of the mainstream discourse in psychology and neuroscience.
Especially given its apparently central role in perceptual processes, its
pertinence for consciousness studies, its implications for understanding
mood disorders and emotions in general, and its far-reaching philosophical
implications? A Kuhnian paradigm shift is needed. e study of naturally
occurring (plant derived) substances should be allowed into academia in
order to foster the elucidation of the interplay between psychoactive chemi-
cals, cognition, and consciousness.
Off the Lip: Science over politics!
Adams, C., Waldstein, A., Luke, D., Sessa, B. & King, D. (2013). Breaking convention:
Essays on psychedelic consciousness. Devizes: Strange Attractor.
Aghajanian, G.K. & Marek, G.J. (1999). Serotonin and Hallucinogens. Neuropharma-
cology, 21, 16-23.
Axelrod, J. (1961). Enzymatic formation of psychotomimetic metabolites from normal-
ly occurring compounds. Science. 134(3475), 343.
Barker, S.A., Borjigin J., Lomnicka, I., Strassman, R. (2013). LC/MS/MS analysis of
the endogenous dimethyltryptamine hallucinogens, their precursors, and major metabo-
lites in rat pineal gland microdialysate. Biomedical Chromatography, 27, 1690-1700.
Beyer, S. (2009). Singing to the plants: A guide to mestizo shamanism in the upper Ama-
zon. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
Bois-Mariage, F. (2002). Ayahuasca : Une synthèse interdisciplinaire. Psychotropes, 8,
Cozzi, N.V., Gopalakrishnan, A., Anderson, L.L., Feih, J.T., Shulgin, A.T., Daley, P.F.,
Ruoho A.E. (2009). Dimethyltryptamine and other hallucinogenic tryptamines exhibit
substrate behavior at the serotonin uptake transporter and the vesicle monoamine trans-
porter. Journal of Neural Transmission, 116(12), 1591–1599.
Cozzi, N.V., Mavlyutov, T.A., ompson, M.A., Ruoho, A.E. (2011). Indolethylamine
N-methyltransferase expression in primate nervous tissue. Society for Neuroscience Ab-
stracts, 37, 840.19.
Eakin, R. (1973). e third eye. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Epel, E., Daubenmier, J., Moskowitz, J. T., Folkman, S., Blackburn, E. (2009). Can
meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1172, 34-53.
Fisher, R.A. (1971). A cartography of the ecstatic and meditative states. Science, 174,
Frecska, E., Móré, C.E., Vargha, A., Luna, E.L. (2012). Enhancement of Creative Ex-
pression and Entoptic Phenomena as After-Effects of Repeated Ayahuasca Ceremonies.
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 44(3), 191-199.
Frecska, E., Szabo, A., Winkelman, M.J., Luna E.L. and McKenna, D.J. (2013). A
possibly sigma-1 receptor mediated role of dimethyltryptamine in tissue protection,
regeneration, and immunity. Journal of Neural Transmission, 120(9), 1295–1303.
Fontanilla, D., Johannessen, M., Hajipour, A.R., Cozzi, N.V., Jackson, M.B., Ruoho,
A.E. (2009). e Hallucinogen N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) Is an Endogenous
Sigma-1 Receptor Regulator. Science, 323(5916), 934-937.
Gazzaniga, M. & Mangun, G. (2014). e cognitive neurosciences. Cambridge, Massa-
chusetts: e MIT Press.
Grey, A. (2012). Net of being.