The same substance is traditionally used by indigenous people for hallucinogenic episodes.
Researchers from the University of Michigan found widespread traces of naturally-occurring dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in lab rat brains.
It's same substance that's found in Ayahuasca, a concoction used by indigenous peoples from the Amazon basin as part of their hallucinogenic religious ceremonies.
Jimo Borjigin, PhD at the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, who co-authored the paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, got the idea to look for the substance from a mid-1990s documentary that explored the effect of DMT IV injections on the brain.
And the results surprised them. Using a special DNA localization technique, "we found brain neurons with the two enzymes required to make DMT," Borjigin said in a statement.
"They are also found in other parts of the brain, including the neocortex and hippocampus that are important for higher-order brain functions including learning and memory," she added.
Insane in the Membrane
And that's not all. Borjigin and her team also found that levels of DMT increased in some rats that were about to die from a heart attack, suggesting that the substance could possibly simulate near death experiences.
"We don't know what it's doing in the brain," said Borjigin. All we're saying is we discovered the neurons that make this chemical in the brain, and they do so at levels similar to other monoamine neurotransmitters."
READ MORE: 'Mystical' psychedelic compound found in normal brains [University of Michigan]
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