EEG study to explore the brain effects of synthetic 5-MeO-DMT in 32 retreat participants
The study will be conducted by a team led by Dr. Jeremy I. Skipper, Associate Professor of Experimental Psychology at UCL, and will gather quantitative and qualitative data from participants at Tandava Retreats to assess changes in wellbeing, beliefs and personality. Joel Brierre, CEO of Tandava Retreats and F.I.V.E., and Victoria Wueschner, president of F.I.V.E., will coordinate.
UCL investigators will conduct the study titled “Uncovering the neural and subjective effects of 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine” with the cooperation of 32 participants engaged in ceremonial 5-MeO-DMT practices at Tandava Retreats in Tepoztlán, Mexico. Spontaneous neural imagery from participants will be taken by researchers utilizing electroencephalography (EEG) both before and during the 5-MeO-DMT experience, in order to facilitate a better understanding of the substance’s mechanisms of action on the brain.
“There is almost no understanding of the mechanisms of 5-MeO-DMT’s effects on mental health and wellbeing, an understanding that requires us to look at the actual contexts where it is typically used,” says Dr. Skipper. “Our study is assessing the effects of 5-MeO-DMT in context, so we can uncover whether individual differences in brain responses are associated with the different meanings people make of their experiences. We hope to contribute not only to a better scientific understanding of how 5-MeO-DMT works in the brain, but also to enabling individualized approaches that maximize the efficacy of 5-MeO-DMT therapies and retreats.”
5-MeO-DMT is a powerful psychoactive compound, traditionally derived from the Sonoran Desert toad Bufo alvarius. 5-MeO-DMT is used in synthetic form at Tandava Retreats due to concerns over species conservation and the sustainability of sourcing the substance at scale. Recently, the United States National Park Service issued a social media post imploring visitors to its park not to seek out 5-MeO-DMT-containing toads for precisely these reasons.
“We have found the experience of synthetic 5-MeO-DMT to be identical in nature to the toad secretion, which is important to note during the rise in popularity of this medicine,” says Joel Brierre. “Not only is synthetic safer and more effective to use with participants, but it has the repeatable consistency and precision dosage needed for proper research to be done.”
The legality of 5-MeO-DMT varies from country to country. In the U.S., 5-MeO-DMT is a Schedule I controlled substance, though in some local jurisdictions it is decriminalized (lower penalties associated with possession or use). In Mexico and Canada, 5-MeO-DMT is not a controlled substance.
The study is expected to cost a total of £89,205. A UK-based charitable foundation has donated £33,645, leaving £55,650 still needed to complete the study. Tandava Retreats is matching the funds to be raised and will donate retreat and integration costs for 15 out of 30 study participants. Those wishing to support the study can donate via the study’s crowdfunding page.
For more information or to request interviews with researchers, retreat facilitators, or 5-MeO-DMT retreat participants, please contact: