This talk describes the research Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris 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.
Robin Carhart-Harris completed his PhD in Psychopharmacology at the University of Bristol after doing an MA in Psychoanalysis at Brunel University, London. In 2009, under the mentorship of Professor David Nutt, Robin moved to Imperial College London to continue his clinical research with the classic psychedelic drug psilocybin (magic mushrooms). Over the last four years, with Amanda Feilding of the Beckley Foundation and David Nutt, they have built up a programme of research with psychedelics that includes brain imaging with psilocybin and MDMA and soon an MRC-sponsored clinical trial to assess the efficacy of psilocybin as a treatment for major depression. Our work with psilocybin is now published in PNAS and the British Journal of Psychiatry with several other relevant papers to follow. This research has been principally supported by the Beckley Foundation (UK) who have been essential to its initiation and success. Additional sponsors have included the Neuropsychoanalysis Foundation, Heffter Foundation and MAPS.