Psychedelics research and public education elevated by multiple gifts – UC Berkeley

Posted: September 16, 2021 at 6:09 am

The University of California, Berkeleys Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) is benefitting from five philanthropic gifts announced today that provide a total of $7million to initiate a robust national conversation about psychedelics and society, to commence novel research studies on how psychedelic compounds alter our brain and behavior, and to launch a unique training curriculum for facilitators of the psychedelic experience.

Recent years have seen a renaissance in scientific, medical, and public interest in the use of psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, MDMA (Ecstasy), and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Many clinical trials have demonstrated that pairing psychedelic compounds with psychotherapy can effectively treat several mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy has shown great promise for improving mental health, but there is still much to learn about the mechanisms of actions of psychedelics on the mind and brain, said Michael Silver, a UC Berkeley neuroscientist and the BCSPs inaugural director.These philanthropic gifts will enable the BCSP to conduct multiple studies of the effects of psychedelics and to serve as a reliable source of information about all aspects of psychedelics. Together, they will allow the BCSP to become a global leader in public education and scientific knowledge about psychedelics.

Launched last fall, the BCSP will accomplish basic scientific research on the underlying mechanisms for psychedelics cognitive and neural activity in healthy human volunteers and experimental animal models. Unlike psychedelics centers at other universities, Berkeleys approach is distinctively broad and interdisciplinary, incorporating the diverse expertise of neuroscientists, psychologists, educators, and journalists.

This surge in philanthropic support permits the BCSP to pursue its first phase of programming. The largest gift, from an anonymous donor, provides $1million annually for five years to advance the centers mission of research, training, and public education about psychedelics and their roles in society.

Funds from this anonymous gift will be combined with a $250,000contribution from a second anonymous donor to initiate and evaluate training of cohorts of facilitators, who will guide novices through safe and supportive psychedelic experiences. In a first-of-its-kind, university-based experiential learning program, Berkeley will partner with the Graduate Theological Union to train chaplains, clinicians, and social workers in providing mental health and spiritual care with psychedelic therapy.

Participants in the training program will be eligible to volunteer in the BCSPs research studies in order to gain firsthand experience with psychedelic journeys and to assist more junior trainees. Initially, the BCSP intends to conduct studies with psilocybin, the principal psychoactive chemical inmagic mushrooms, contingent on federal, state, and university regulatory approvals. Researchers in the BCSP will characterize the neural basis for psilocybins therapeutic efficacy as well as its ability to improve cognitive flexibility, alter visual perception, and engender feelings of awe.

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Psychedelics research and public education elevated by multiple gifts - UC Berkeley

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