- Researchers in Spain found that DMT sparks the creation of new brain cells in mice.
- These new brain cells can be linked to improvements in memory and cognition.
- DMT could increase brain plasticity.
In 2020, researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain found that DMT can promote neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells. This could have extremely positive effects in the research of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
People in South America have been using DMT for healing purposes for centuries. However, it wasn’t until a few decades ago that it caught the world’s attention. Now, it is used by some people as a healing aid for different afflictions like depression or addiction.
While the research does not yet involve human beings, the results with rodent experimentation are promising.
DMT Causes New Brain Cells To Grow in Mice
Across multiple experiments with mice, the study found that DMT does trigger neurogenesis. Furthermore, these new brain cells or neurons can be linked to tangible improvements in memory and cognition.
The researchers gave the mice daily injections of DMT over 21 days, either alone or in combination with a receptor blocker. Following this period, they tested spatial learning and memory tasks. The results showed that the mice that received pure DMT performed better than those who were injected with DMT and the receptor blocker. This finding could suggest that the brain is placing the newly created neurons to use in the hippocampus, a brain area that has a major role in learning and memory.
These results also lead the researchers to believe that perhaps DMT could be used in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease. These diseases involve the progressive loss of cells in affected areas in the brain or the nervous system, a way to reverse the damage could be to restore the brain’s capacity to produce neurons.
How DMT Promotes the Production of New Brain Cells
While no research has yet been done to determine whether DMT promotes neurogenesis in humans, the findings in mice suggest that DMT increases brain plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to rewire in order to learn new things. This capacity to promote brain plasticity shows that it has great potential for a variety of psychiatric and neurological disorders, including neurodegenerative disorders.
Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by the progressive death of certain kinds of neurons and damage to the nervous system. While humans usually have the capacity to generate new neuronal cells, people with an impaired cognitive system are not always able to do so.
According to José Ángel Morales, who led the research, the main challenge is to activate the brain’s dormant capacity to form new neurons to replace the ones that die as a result of disease. He also claimed that the study suggests that DMT is capable of activating neural stem cells and forming new brain cells.
Could DMT Improve Spatial Learning and Performance in Memory Tasks?
In the study conducted by the Complutense University of Madrid, researchers found that DMT activated neurogenesis in the hippocampus in mice. This brain region, aside from being connected to learning, is also responsible for the consolidation of new memories.
DMT ties to many receptors on nerve cells in the brain, and is known to trigger psychedelic effects when it connects to the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor. In the experiment, scientists injected the mice with DMT either by itself or with a combination of different agents that block the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor to find out which receptor is responsible for DMT’s effect on neurogenesis.
The results showed that DMT triggers neurogenesis when it ties to a receptor called stigma-1, rather than the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor. This means that it could be possible to block DMT’s hallucinogenic effects while still retaining its ability to create new brain cells. If applied to humans, it could theoretically boost learning and memory performance as well.
What Does This Mean?
While much more research is necessary to determine whether DMT can also increase neurogenesis in humans, these results are a good omen. If it has similar effects on people, it could end or at least successfully treat many afflictions.
DMT contains antidepressant properties, which may be why it can recreate nerve cells and trigger the birth of new neurons. However, nerve cells start to die off many years before the symptoms of a neurodegenerative disease become evident, and it still remains to be seen whether the brains of patients with such a diagnosis will retain the ability to generate new functional neurons.