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Ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking while decreasing conventional convergent thinking

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Ayahuasca is a South American psychotropic plant tea traditionally used in Amazonian shamanism. The tea contains the psychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), plus β-carboline alkaloids with monoamine oxidase-inhibiting properties. Increasing evidence from anecdotal reports and open-label studies indicates that ayahuasca may have therapeutic effects in treatment of substance use disorders and depression. A recent study on the psychological effects of ayahuasca found that the tea reduces judgmental processing and inner reactivity, classic goals of mindfulness psychotherapy. Another psychological facet that could potentially be targeted by ayahuasca is creative divergent thinking. This mode of thinking can enhance and strengthen psychological flexibility by allowing individuals to generate new and effective cognitive, emotional, and behavioral strategies. The present study aimed to assess the potential effects of ayahuasca on creative thinking.

METHODS: We visited two spiritual ayahuasca workshops and invited participants to conduct creativity tests before and during the acute effects of ayahuasca. In total, 26 participants consented. Creativity tests included the "pattern/line meanings test" (PLMT) and the "picture concept test" (PCT), both assessing divergent thinking and the latter also assessing convergent thinking.

RESULTS: While no significant effects were found for the PLMT, ayahuasca intake significantly modified divergent and convergent thinking as measured by the PCT. While convergent thinking decreased after intake, divergent thinking increased.

CONCLUSIONS: The present data indicate that ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking. They suggest that ayahuasca increases psychological flexibility, which may facilitate psychotherapeutic interventions and support clinical trial initiatives.

    Research areas

  • Ayahuasca, Field study, Divergent creative thinking, Conventional convergent thinking, Creativity, HEALTHY-VOLUNTEERS, DOUBLE-BLIND, 3,4-METHYLENEDIOXYETHYLAMPHETAMINE MDE, D-METHAMPHETAMINE, PSILOCYBIN, METAANALYSIS, PSYCHOSIS, HUMANS, BRAIN, PERFORMANCE

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3395–3403
Number of pages9
JournalPsychopharmacology
Volume233
Issue number18
Early online date19 Jul 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016