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ORIGINAL RESEARCH article

Baseline power of theta oscillations predicts mystical-type experiences induced by DMT in a natural setting

Provisionally accepted
The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon
 Enzo Tagliazucchi1, 2, 3*,  Federico Zamberlan1, 3, Federico Cavanna1, 3,  Laura De La Fuente1, 3, Celeste Romero1, Yonatan Sanz Perl3, 4, 5 and  Carla Pallavicini1, 3
  • 1University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 2Escuela de Psicología, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Chile
  • 3Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Argentina
  • 4Universidad de San Andrés, Argentina
  • 5Pompeu Fabra University, Spain

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a classic psychedelic capable of inducing short-lasting but profound changes in consciousness. As with other psychedelics, the experience induced by DMT strongly depends upon contextual factors, yet the neurobiological determinants of this variability remain unknown. The present study investigated changes in neural oscillations elicited by inhaled DMT, and whether baseline electroencephalography (EEG) recordings could predict the subjective effects reported by the participants. Healthy volunteers (N=35) were measured with EEG before and during the acute effects of DMT consumed in a natural setting. Source-localized neural oscillations were correlated with the results of multiple questionnaires employed to assess the subjective effects of the drug. DMT resulted in a marked reduction of alpha and beta oscillations, and increased posterior spectral power in the delta, theta and gamma bands. The power of fronto-temporal theta oscillations was inversely correlated with scales indexing feelings of unity and transcendence, which are an integral part of the phenomenology of mystical-type experiences. The robustness of these results was supported using a machine learning model for regression trained and tested following a cross-validation procedure. These results are consistent with the observation that the state of mind prior to consuming a psychedelic drug influences the ensuing subjective experience of the user. They also suggest that baseline EEG screenings before administration of a serotonergic psychedelic could be useful to estimate the likelihood of inducing mystical-type experiences, previously linked to sustained positive effects in well-being and improved outcome of therapeutic interventions.

Keywords: psychedelics, DMT, EEG, Neural oscillations, mystical-type experiences

Received: 08 Jun 2021; Accepted: 07 Oct 2021.

Copyright: © 2021 Tagliazucchi, Zamberlan, Cavanna, De La Fuente, Romero, Sanz Perl and Pallavicini. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Enzo Tagliazucchi, University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1053ABJ, Buenos Aires, Argentina, tagliazucchi.enzo@googlemail.com