2015 – Ayahuasca Shown to Affect the Brain Similar to Meditation
Ayahuasca and meditation are similar in some ways and certainly compatible in many ways. People who drink ayahuasca can benefit greatly from having a background in meditation or contemplation practices. In a research paper published in 2015, scientists in Brazil describe intriguing similarities between the brains of people under the influence of ayahuasca and sober people doing meditation exercises.
Neuroscientist Dr. Araujo and associates investigated the effect of ayahuasca on the Default Mode Network (DMN), a set of regions in the brain that is active when a person is not engaged in solving a specific goal-oriented task. Higher DMN engagement had been connected in prior research with mental activity such as mind-wandering and meditation, and is thought to be involved in thinking about yourself, the past, and the future. The team of scientists used fMRI to scan the brains of 10 participants before and during their ayahuasca experiences and found significant decreases in the activity of the DMN while under the effect of the brew. These results imply that ayahuasca journeys may require some kind of mental engagement from its drinkers – an amount of effort and concentration that would help them deal with the experience. The activity of the DMN is also known to decrease during meditation. Introspection and self-perception are common to both the meditative and the ayahuasca states, and the authors speculate that they may be what causes the decrease in DMN activity. Still, they acknowledge that connecting psychedelic experiences to changes in brain activity is a complex task, and that more research is needed.
The scientific study represents one of the most pioneering scientific projects on ayahuasca. Others on such a list would have to include how the MAIO molecules in the ayahuasca vine allow DMT access to the blood stream through the gut; the safety of ayahuasca on the body; positive long-term health of ayahuasca on health; and a study on the anti-depressant effects of ayahuasca, just to name a few.
Palhano-Fontes, F., Andrade, K. C., Tofoli, L. F., Santos, A. C., Crippa, J. A. S., Hallak, J. E., Ribeiro, S. & de Araujo, D. B. (2015). The psychedelic state induced by ayahuasca modulates the activity and connectivity of the default mode network. PloS one, 10(2), e0118143.