Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris is one of the first researchers in 40 years to be allowed to investigate the effects of psychedelic drugs. He used a FMI brain imager to study the resting state activation in the brains of volunteers how had taken a fairly small but very intense intravenous dose of psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms). What he found surprised everyone. He found that the drug caused large decreases in activity in various centres of coordination in the brain. This was exactly the opposite to what Robin and everyone else had been predicting but it is a very clear and very robust finding. What’s more the result does seem to explain a lot of the phenomenology of psychedelic experience.
In this recent talk for the Ecology, Cosmos and Consciousness lecture series at the October Gallery, Robin gives a very accessible account of his fascinating and first rate ongoing research. If you are at all interested in what is happening to the brain during psychedelic experience you really should watch this talk. Because for the first time in human history we are starting to get something of a clue.
This talk describes the research Robin has been carrying out over the last few years involving brain imaging and psychedelics. This work has been motivated by Amanda Feilding and the Beckley Foundation and done under the mentorship of Prof David Nutt and with the support of Imperial College London and the Universities of Bristol and Cardiff. Robin describes the rationale, results and implications of their imaging work with psilocybin (magic mushrooms), the early results of an ongoing study with MDMA (ecstasy) and the design of a planned study to assess psilocybin as a treatment for depression. The scientific content is presented in an accessible way with the hope of stimulating an interest into the neurobiology of psychedelics and their potential therapeutic action.
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