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      “Ayahuasca turned on my mind’s eye”: Enhanced visual imagery after ayahuasca intake in a man with “blind imagination” (aphantasia)


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          Background and aims

          Aphantasia (“blind imagination”) is a poorly described condition with an uncertain etiology, characterized by reduced or lack of voluntary visual imagery. Preliminary evidence in humans suggests that hallucinogenic or psychedelic drugs that act as agonists of cortical 5-HT 2A receptors [lysergic acid diethylamide, psilocybin, and dimethyltryptamine (DMT)] enhance visual imagery.


          Interview and description of the case are presented in this study.


          A man self-diagnosed with long-lasting aphantasia that he attributed to a traumatic separation from his father when he was young and to a difficult relationship with him described sustained improvements in his visual imagery following ingestion of a single dose of the South American botanical hallucinogen ayahuasca, which is rich in DMT. Although improvements were modest, they were sustained and significative for the subject.


          It is suggested that the described improvements were possibly attributed to biological and psychological processes, including stimulation of cortical 5-HT 2A receptors, subsequent increased activity in the visual cortex, enhanced imaginative and imagery capacities, and psychosomatic resolution of a previous psychological trauma. Further trials could elucidate the role of 5-HT 2A agonists, especially ayahuasca, in aphantasia.

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          Most cited references6

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          Rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression: a randomized placebo-controlled trial

          Background Recent open-label trials show that psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, hold promise as fast-onset antidepressants in treatment-resistant depression. Methods To test the antidepressant effects of ayahuasca, we conducted a parallel-arm, double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial in 29 patients with treatment-resistant depression. Patients received a single dose of either ayahuasca or placebo. We assessed changes in depression severity with the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and the Hamilton Depression Rating scale at baseline, and at 1 (D1), 2 (D2), and 7 (D7) days after dosing. Results We observed significant antidepressant effects of ayahuasca when compared with placebo at all-time points. MADRS scores were significantly lower in the ayahuasca group compared with placebo at D1 and D2 (p = 0.04), and at D7 (p < 0.0001). Between-group effect sizes increased from D1 to D7 (D1: Cohen's d = 0.84; D2: Cohen's d = 0.84; D7: Cohen's d = 1.49). Response rates were high for both groups at D1 and D2, and significantly higher in the ayahuasca group at D7 (64% v. 27%; p = 0.04). Remission rate showed a trend toward significance at D7 (36% v. 7%, p = 0.054). Conclusions To our knowledge, this is the first controlled trial to test a psychedelic substance in treatment-resistant depression. Overall, this study brings new evidence supporting the safety and therapeutic value of ayahuasca, dosed within an appropriate setting, to help treat depression. This study is registered at http://clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02914769).
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            Lives without imagery - Congenital aphantasia.

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              Reflections on aphantasia


                Author and article information

                Journal of Psychedelic Studies
                Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest )
                25 July 2018
                December 2018
                : 2
                : 2
                : 74-77
                [ 1 ]Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Departamento de Neurociências e Ciências do Comportamento, Hospital das Clínicas, Universidade de São Paulo , Ribeirão Preto, Brazil
                [ 2 ] National Institute of Science and Technology – Translational Medicine , Ribeirão Preto, Brazil
                [ 3 ] ICEERS Foundation (International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Services) , Barcelona, Spain
                [ 4 ] The Enyart Group , Los Angeles, CA, USA
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author: Rafael G. dos Santos, PhD; Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Departamento de Neurociências e Ciências do Comportamento, Hospital das Clínicas, Universidade de São Paulo, Terceiro Andar, Av. Bandeirantes, 3900, Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil; Phone/Fax: +55 16 3602 2703; E-mail: banisteria@ 123456gmail.com
                © 2018 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited, a link to the CC License is provided, and changes – if any – are indicated.

                : 12 April 2018
                : 14 June 2018
                : 18 June 2018
                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 11, Pages: 4
                CASE REPORT

                Evolutionary Biology,Medicine,Psychology,Educational research & Statistics,Social & Behavioral Sciences
                ayahuasca,aphantasia,psychedelics,visual imagery,hallucinogens


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