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 Psychic Awareness and the Pineal Gland

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PostSubject: Psychic Awareness and the Pineal Gland   Mon Apr 02, 2007 12:59 pm

AYAHUASCA AND THE PINEAL GLAND
The proving of a South America shamanistic drug,
and its comparative implications in the chemistry of the Pineal Gland.
Charles Wansbrough
A large part of the following article is taken from the book called
"Where Science and Magic Meet" by Serena Roney-Dougal and am indebted to
Ele-ment books for giving me permission to publish it. Her thesis in
this book is that the hallucinogen Ayahuasca and the pineal Gland are
specifically con-nected.
Before entering upon a discussion on the hallucino-gen Ayahuasca, I
would like to take a cursory glance at the latest developments in the
field of Pinealogy since it bears some relevance to her own thesis and
to a possible cause for hallucinogenic effects.
IRE PINEAL GLAND - A MEDICAL HYPOTH-ESIS
Before the 1960's medical science considered the human pineal gland to
be essentially vestigial. In 1650 Rene Descartes located the soul in the
pineal gland. and (with a distinct lack of clarity) declared this to be
the place where interactions between the mind and the body occurred so
creating the" dogma of the ghost in the machine". Eastern esoteric
tra-ditions have always associated it with "the third eye" and as the
centre of psychic ability. Nevertheless text-books on physiology
regarded it as a calcified ves-tige of the third eye, found in some
frogs, fishes, and lizards, where it is associated with a well developed
light sensitive organ.
Nevertheless between 1959-64 research carried out by a number of
scientists contributed observations which taken together allowed one to
put forward a genera! theory on pineal function- The Melatonin
Hy-pothesis. Human chronobiologists afler realising that seasonal
rhythms in many animals were regulated by the secretion of melatonin in
the pineal gland, assumed a similar role in humans.
It was found that the pineal gland contained enzymes needed to
synthesise nielatonin from its parent amino acid, tryptophan.
Furthermore it was shown that melatonin synthesis varies rhythmically
with the light-Dark cycle and that external lighting cqnditions reach
the pineal gland via a pathway involving the eyes, the accessory optic
tracts, and the pineal's unu-sual sympathetic innervation. Further
indirect evi-dence from Harvard Medical school showed that the gland was
involved in the light induced acceleration of gonadal maturation and
that melatonin is in fact secreted by the pineal gland. that its
secretion rate is diurnal and that once secreted it has important
physi-ological effects.
The prevailing view is that the pineal releases mela-tonin in' response
to a neurotransmitter released by sympathetic nerves attached to the
pineal gland. This fact implies that the pineal gland is a
neuroendocrine transducer like the adrenal medulla (in other words it
converts a message from a neural input into an endocrine output). The
rate at which the neurotrans-mitter ( norepinephrine) is released de 6
lines when light activates the retina and increases when the
sym-pathetic nerves are stimulated (eg by severe stress). It was also
found that rhythmicity was indeed lost in animals exposed to continuous
light but maintained when kept solely in the dark.
Human chronobiologists now see human beings as entrained to the solar
cycle via the pineal gland. Furthe more its activity is driven by the
hypothalmic suprachiasmatic nuclei ( a brain region hypothesised to be
the locus of an endogenous biological clock). Melatonin secretion by the
pineal gland is tightly controlled by light and most of the output
occurs at night and during sleep (between llpm-7am) and it has been
shown that melatonin can clearly induce drowsiness in human beings .
This rhythm has re-cently been implicated in the syndrome called
Sea-sonal Affective Disorder (SAD) though it's mecha-nism still remains
puzzling.
Chemical Physiology;
After a cursory glance at the present medical theo-ries as to the
function of the pineal gland it is neces-sary to go further into the
physiology of the actual process to understand fully the thesis
elaborated by S Roney-Dougal in her book.
It is known that Melatonin is linked with the neuro-chemical Serotonin
(a chemical transmitter in the brain) . which is stored in the synaptic
vesicles. The concentration of serotonin is 50 times higher in the
pineal than in other parts of the brain. Normally Serotonin like other
neurotransmitters is inactivated by an enzyme called Monoamine Oxidase
(MAO). If this pathway is blocked and Serotonin builds up in the pineal,
other enzymes may convert the latter to
5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine(5-MeDM.T) a hallucinogen similar to
DM1, another drug used by Amazonian Indians when making up their potent
brew for shamanistic purposes. Furtliermore Ilarmala alkaloids (to which
species Ayahuasca belongs) are potent serotonin antagonists, MAO
inhibitors and hallucinogens. According to one authority compari-son of
the chemical structures of various hallucino-gens and the structures of
neurotransinitters such as serotonin show incredibly close similarities
indicat-ing why they should have such a potent effect on the mental and
emotional states of individuals.
The Thesis of S. Roney-Douglas's book rests on the following hypothesis,
regarding the secretion (by the pineal gland) of another type of
compound called Beta-carbolines. These substances are chemically very
similar to the Rarmala alkaloids which are p0-tent hallucinogens. This
is the linchpin of her entire hypothesis since she argues that this
potent com-pound secreted by the pineal might be responsible for
altering the state of our consciousness to a state of enhanced psychic
awareness.
Evidence for this assertion can be found from a number of sources. W.B.
Quay in his textbook on pineal chemistry says that the gland can d6 this
arid synthesise it possibly from serotonin or melatonin. Furthermore in
1984 S.Z.Langer et al, found that a particular Beta-carboline
(6-methoxytetrahydrobetacarboline-6.MeOTHBC for short-otherwise called
Pinoline ) was present in the pineal gland. They suggested that it works
by pre-venting the breakdown of serotonin and inhibiting certain enzymes
leading to a buildup of these neurotransmitters in the synapses which
may be one reason for a hallucinogenic effect. Other functions of the
Beta-carbolines are effects on the temperature regulation, analgesic
effects, but the most interest-ing compound is the one that has a
structure similar to Harmaline (this chemical has been isolated from
Ayahuasca as the main substance responsible for its hallucinogenic
effects) used by the Shamans. The hormonal effects of this
Beta-carboline are only be-ginning to be deduced by the medical
profession and await much further research.
Other possible biochemical causes of hallucinatory states are supposed
to exist. One suggests that there may be faulty metabolism of protein
compounds in the body, notably in the functioning of the thyroid gland.
Another suggests that all hallucinations occur as a defect in the
chemistry of the system that con-verts impulses from instinctual to
conscious thought, and that adrenaline may be responsible for this
break-down. Nevertheless the most intriguing by far is that associated
with the pineal gland since it has been assumed in many mystical
traditions as the centre of psychic activity.( Dreams and Dreaming
Norman MacKenzie)
Biological Clock:
Since during the hours of sleep a high degree of psy-chic activity is
said to take place, it is of significance thatpineal activity not only
regulates the daily rhythm of sleeping and waking but that its
electrical activity seems to increase at night.
It was discovered in 1950's that there are two kinds of sleep. One
corresponds to a highly active brain characterised by rapid eye
movements and known as REM sleep, and concerns ci ream activity. The
other phase shows less brain activity and eye movements are slow or
absent and is known as Non REM. sleep. Sleep recordings reveal that RIEM
and NREM sleep are organised in cycles. In adults REM sleep occurs about
every 1 1/2 hours throughout the night so that dreams occur three to
four times a night
Furthermore S.C. Callaway in an interesting medi-cal hypothesis on a
proposed mechanism for visions in sleep has indicated that the periodic
REM sleep is due to the interaction between Pinoline (the beta carboline
similar to ayahuasca) arid serotonin. Moreover this Beta-carboline is
functional in induc-ing. REM sleep, lucid dreaming, itnd other naturally
occurring states such as deep meditation. He pro-poses that, will' the
onset of darkness melatonin is produced which induces drowsiness which
when proclucettin sufficient concentrations triggers the pro-duction of
Pinoline which again triggers dreaming because of its own inherent
hallucinogenic effect. This then begins to build up which inhibits an
en-zyme, leading to the build up of serotonin - this in-hibits dreaming
and the brain shifts into the next phase of NREM sleep. This cycle
recurs throughout the night. In brief, REM sleep, NREM sleep and
wakefulness constitute itie three modes in which humans and mammals
exit.

Excerpted from: Homeopathic Help.Net ~ http://homepage.ntlworld.com/homeopathy_advice/index.html
Link to entire article: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/homeopathy_advice/Remedies/MATERA_MEDICA/ayahuasca.html
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