Neurothanatodelia: The ‘Phenomeneurology’ of DMT as an NDE-mimetic | Pascal Michael

Pascal, BSc, MSc is a PhD candidate at the University of Greenwich, comparing the psychedelic (namely DMT) experience, based on the first conceived field study of DMT use, and the near-death experience – with a view to establishing the near-death experience as a neurally-generated psychedelic episode, and such psychedelics as ‘NDE-mimetics’. He’s published in Frontiers, is a coordinator for ALEF Trust’s certificate in Psychedelics, and is a recipient of the Schmeidler Outstanding Student Award.


Introduction: Classical near-death experiences (NDEs) are altered states of consciousness within the context of actual proximity to death, which typically have profoundly transformative effects. Several studies indicate uncanny phenomenological similarities primarily with experiences elicited by the monoaminergic psychedelics, particularly the serotonergic tryptamine DMT. When such psychedelically-occasioned NDEs are psychometrically compared to authentic NDEs, they are shown to be insignificantly different. While providing helpful models for the NDE, these psychedelic NDE-like experiences may also gesture at the neurochemical substrates undergirding it. No study has yet been dedicated to a systematic qualitative analysis of the details of content of both a psychedelic and near-death experience, nor within individuals having experienced both such states, to clarify the fidelity of their modelling of the NDE, and thus crystalise the likelihood of any predominant endogenous role.

Methods: In this paper, we report on the thematic and content analysis of the DMT experience from the first concieved naturalistic field study of DMT use, focusing on the transpersonal (previously reported) and personal dimensions to the experience, and those pertaining to death and dying and the mystical experience. A comparison of scores of the near-death experience scale from the DMT participants of the field study, against those published already comparing prior laboratory DMT and actual near-death experiences, also supplement as a quantitative measure.

Results: Preliminary analyses reveal that there are indeed exigent convergences between the DMT and near-death experience. However, these are most marked in the more basic phenomenological structure, that is, the underlying ‘template’ which is more invariant and thus correlatable with neural substrates, including (but not limited to) sense of dying, disembodiment, journeying to another spatial environment and encountering seemingly non-self agencies. Whereas, on the more nuanced level of content, or ‘texture‘, the specifics of which being variable between individuals and groups, the experiences are unavoidably distinct. The NDE appearing arguably more circumscribed (and possibly individually/culturally specific) in the content and aesthetics reported, while DMT is definitively unique in its content-prodigious, psychedelically-characteristic (and individually/culturally non-specific) experience. There is also no immediately recognisable linear progression of themes in the DMT experience (as suggested by some studies, but not all, to occur with NDEs). This being so, there are a very small cluster of themes, and only in some cases, which even in content were identified as virtually equivalent. Additionally, there were at least two participants in the field study whose experiences intimately resembled the near-death experience in terms of a reliable sequence of NDE-related themes – though whose content, again, was more classic of DMT. Regarding the NDE-5MeO-DMT experiencer, there was found to be exceptionally high comparability between the original NDE and psychedelic experiences in general (such as entering other worlds, meeting menacing or benevolent entities, synaesthesia, perinatal regression, and lucid dream-like properties). Much comparability was also identified with the 5MeO experience, in particular the major mystical experiential domains, such as ego dissolution, but especially transcendence of time and space.

Program chaired by John G. Kruth. Download the Abstracts at


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Published on January 17, 2024