Interdisciplinary Perspectives of Ayahuasca

Interdisciplinary Perspectives of Ayahuasca

1st-5th July 2019

General description

Ayahuasca is a traditional psychoactive South-American brew whose use is regulated in Brazil
in native and religious settings. It is subject of a variety of recent human and animal studies on
Pharmacology, Neuroscience and Psychiatry. Although it has not been yet regulated for
therapeutic use in Brazil, ayahuasca and its components – dimethyltryptamine and the harmala
alkaloids – are currently under scientific scrutiny with encouraging results. Because of its legal
status in this country, Brazil has major relevance regarding ayahuasca studies and offers a
unique opportunity for those interested in studying novel medicinal agents, the scientific
investigation of altered states of consciousness, interdisciplinary discussions among
Anthropology, Botany, Chemistry, Psychology and Medicine, and the investigation of the
therapeutic potentials of psychedelic agents. This has been a new and exciting field of research
whose results are constantly reaching the general media and attracting the attention of scholars
and students.

The University of Campinas and its School of Medical Sciences houses a research group that is
focused on ayahuasca: ICARO – the Interdisciplinary Cooperation for Ayahuasca Research and
Outreach. ICARO is headed by Prof. Luís Tófoli and is composed of scholars and students from
several areas from many institutes at UNICAMP and other Brazilian universities: Psychiatry,
Psychology, Pharmacy, Anthropology, Agricultural Research, Biology, Chemistry and
Neuroscience. The group is able to offer a comprehensive and thorough perspective about
ayahuasca, its plant constituents and its interaction with humans. Moreover, ICARO is also
structured in order to provide practical demonstrations on the management of ayahuasca plant
species and the chemical analysis of ayahuasca and its constituents.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able to:
 Describe what ayahuasca is, how it is used, what are its constituents, how it causes its
effects and what are its possible clinical applications in the current state of the art.
 Discuss the medical, psychological, neuroscientific, anthropological, pharmacological,
chemical, botanical and pharmaceutical aspects of ayahuasca;
 Formulate a simple proposal about ayahuasca within their field of expertise.

Teaching methods

 Lectures, discussions and active learning in classroom;
 Visits with practical demonstrations in UNICAMP facilities related to the ICARO project
(Faculty of Medical Sciences, Chemistry Institute and Chemical, Biological and Agricultural
Pluridisciplinary Research Center).


 Presence and punctuality;
 Individual task: writing an abstract and the objectives of a research proposal on ayahuasca
within the student’s study area.
 On the last day, each student will present their project with some time for debate with fellow
students and the faculty. Students may use up to 3 Powerpoint slides that must be forwarded
to lftofoli@gmail by the evening of 4th July.

Useful Information

 We are doing our best to avoid the classical ‘lecture’ format in this course. There will be
lectures and presentations, but many active learning activities will be proposed. Be aware
that students are expected to participate, discuss, question – in brief, to be active
protagonists of their learning.

 All classes – with the exception of the visits to the Chemical, Biological and Agricultural
Pluridisciplinary Research Center (Centro Pluridisciplinar de Pesquisas Químicas, Biológicas
e Agrícolas, CPQBA) and the Chemistry Institute (Instituto de Química, IQ) – will take place
in the FCM-1 building, the main building of the School of Medical Sciences (Faculdade de
Ciências Médicas, FCM. Transportation for the visits to the CPQBA and IQ will be provided by
the course organization.
 More information about the final student assignment will be provided on the first day, but
the idea is that each student develops and presents the summary of a hypothetical study with
 The course bibliography will also be provided in an online version as a Google Drive folder.

Course Syllabus

Historical and anthropological aspects of ayahuasca. Botanical aspects of ayahuasca. Active
ingredients of ayahuasca: dimethyltryptamine, harmine, harmaline, tetrahydroharmine and
other betacarbolines. The psychopharmacology of ayahuasca. Ayahuasca and Neuroscience. The
toxicology and risks of ayahuasca intake. The therapeutic potential of ayahuasca: depression,
substance-related disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders and other illnesses. The
psychometric assessment of ayahuasca effect. Set and setting in ayahuasca studies.
Psychotherapeutic aspects of ayahuasca use. Agricultural management of B. caapi and P. viridis.
Assessing ayahuasca alkaloids in plant material, ayahuasca samples and biological fluids.
Performing a clinical trial with ayahuasca. Ayahuasca and Bioethics. Ayahuasca, gender and
sexuality. Future challenges of ayahuasca research.


 Luís Fernando Tófoli (School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UNICAMP)

Faculty members:
 Alessandra Sussulini, chemist, PhD (Chemistry Institute, UNICAMP)
 Ílio Montanari Jr., agronomist, PhD (Chemical, Biological and Agricultural
Pluridisciplinary Research Center, UNICAMP)
 Camila Benedito, sociologist, MSc, PhD
 Paulo Morais, psychologist, MSc (UNIR; PhD candidate, UNIFESP)
 Bruno Ramos Gomes, psychologist, MSc (PhD candidate, UNICAMP)
 Isabel Wießner, psychologist, Msc (Phd candidate, UNICAMP)
 Lucas de Oliveira Maia, biologist, MSc (PhD candidate, UNICAMP)
 Rita Zacardi de Souza, chemist, MSc (PhD candidate, UNICAMP)
 Alexandre Pontual, psychologist (PhD candidate, USP)
 Camila Dias, biologist (MSc candidate, UNICAMP)
 Dimitri Daldegan Bueno, psychologist (MSc candidate, UNIFESP)
 Luís Felipe Valêncio, biologist, MSc (PhD candidate, UNICAMP)