WHAT HAPPENS WITH PERSON’S CONSCIOUSNESS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE PSYCHOACTIVE DRINK AYAHUASCA? HOW DOES THE BRAIN REACT TO AYAHUASCA WHEN MONITORED BY A MODERN RESEARCH EQUIPMENT? WHAT ROLE DOES THE TRADITIONAL ENVIRONMENT PLAY IN THE EFFECT OF AYAHUASCA? DO THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF AMAZONIAN JUNGLE PERCEIVE THE EFFECTS OF AYAHUASCA DIFFERENTLY THAN PEOPLE FROM OTHER CULTURES? IS THERE A CONNECTION AMONG THE PARTICIPANTS’ BRAINS WHEN EXPERIENCING THE RITUAL?
Answers to these and to many other questions are searched for by the international scientific project under the leadership of Czech scientists - Neurobiology of Ayahuasca Used in a Traditional Environment. The expedition of our researchers and their colleagues, equipped with portable brain-monitoring equipment, will be headed into the heart of the Amazonian Forest to participate in a ritual revolving around the psychoactive drink Ayahuasca. With the approval from the Huni Kuin and Ashaninka tribes, extensive research will be conducted there. This research has the potential to be a precedent for a significant turn in our thoughts of reality.
Throughout the history of humankind, psychedelic substances have been ritually used for medicine, spiritual connection, or festivities. In a ritual context, ayahuasca helps to accumulate irreplaceable knowledge from the ritual context, which is not just a living legacy of ancient civilizations, but an attractive challenge for modern science as well.
Ayahuasca is a psychoactive drink made from an Amazonian plant, which has been ritually used by traditional tribes in many South American countries for hundreds, even thousands of years. The indigenous people of the Amazon jungle perceive ayahuasca as a symbol of nature’s power. They see it as an immeasurable intelligence which helps them see the true reality through a changed states of consciousness. They call the plants which make ayahuasca medicine. The drink itself is viewed as a treatment and ayahuasca is overall seen by the indigenous people as a teacher.
The main ingredients of the plant extract are made of a liana (Banisteriopsis cani) and the leaves of a bush (Psychotria viridis), which contain a strong psychoactive substance called dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
Throughout the last 60 years, ayahuasca has been the subject of a wide spectrum of scientific studies. Primarily, its potential use in psychotherapy has been studied, but researchers have been curious about its effect on creativity, and the overall improvement of a person’s life. Many participants of the experiments felt a fascinating resurgence of respect for nature after taking ayahuasca, as well as a need for the improvement of their bonds with other people on an interpersonal level.
In this day and age, we are witnessing a renewal of interest in traditional sacred plants and their psychotherapeutic potentials, which is connected to the ongoing project “Neurobiology of Ayahuasca Used in a Traditional Environment”.
Within the project, an international team of top-tier experts uses the newest technologies to study traditional forms of administration of the drink in the Huni Kuin and Ashaninka tribes in the Amazon jungle.
Researchers are interested in ayahuasca’s effect on the psychological state of participants, what influence this changed state has on the consciousness of their mutual connection, and how this context of administration relates to the brain activity.
Who is behind the project:
Dr. Tomáš Páleníček, Ph.D. and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Eduardo Ekman Schenberg, Ph.D. (Instituto Platando Consciencia, Brazil), Dr Tom Froese (National Autonomous University of Mexico – UNAM), Dr Frank Zanow (CEO Ant Neuro), Dr Tania Re and Adine Gavazzi (Cattedra UNESCO at Universita Degli Studi di Genova). The project is also supported by the Neuron Foundation.
Current situation (the end of 2021):
In 2019, there was a testing expedition with portable EEG equipment. This equipment was provided in collaboration with ANT Neuro. Money was raised to support the project.
The project’s execution is scheduled for the year 2023, in collaboration with the Huni Kui tribe. There is ongoing communication with the researchers in Brazil, however, given the political situation, it is not possible to state when the arrival of the Czech researchers will be possible. There are plans for negotiations with the embassy. In the case of failure, the final experiment can still happen in Peru or Ecuador.
With the help of portable EEG equipment, we will collect data illustrating how the traditional environment affects the ayahuasca ritual. The researchers will be able to prove or disprove the importance of the traditional environment and ritual setting. The portable EEG headgear will allow researchers to gain knowledge about connection of individual participants, and the effects which external aspects (the ritual, singing, shaman dancing) have on participants’ neurobiology. By comparing this data to the effects of ayahuasca’s administration in the medical environment, they will be able to conclude the role and effectiveness of the traditional context.
The results are to be expected in the years 2024 and 2025. At the same time, in collaboration with film director David Čálká’s team, the research will be documented. The film “Doctor on Trip” gained support from the Czech Film Fund.
Your financial support will help reach the following goals of the project:
The journey to Brazil will cost approximately 2 million CZK for 15 people including travel expenses, insurance, payment to the indigenous people for shelter, food and participation, salary for a researcher in Brazil, transport expenses in Brazil, administrative and legislative documents, ethics commission and legal services due to the communication with authorities, the government and FUNAI (National Indian Foundation). The production of the documentary film and the data processing are not included in the budget. In case of a journey to Peru, the approximate costs will be 1 milion CZK - travel expenses for 15 people, insurance, payment to the indigenous people for shelter, food and participation, cooperation with researchers inside the reservation, administrative and legal documents, transportation expenses on site. In case of a journey to Peru, it is not certain if the documentary film “Doctor on Trip” will be finished because the film crew received a grant for a journey to Brazil.