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Pioneering research

In the last decade, a number of research groups in Europe and the Americas have conducted studies into the safety and effectiveness of psychedelics for conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research is the first to gain this level of stature within a major academic institution.

When delivered safely and professionally, psychedelic therapy holds a great deal of promise for treating some very serious mental health conditions.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris

Head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research

Ours was the first Centre in the world to investigate the brain effects of LSD using modern brain imaging and the first to study psilocybin – the active compound in magic mushrooms – for treating severe depression. These studies have laid the groundwork for larger trials that are now taking place around the world. Other pioneering work from the group includes breakthrough neuroimaging research with psilocybin, MDMA and DMT (the psychoactive compounds found in ecstasy and ayahuasca respectively).

Earlier this year the group began a new trial directly comparing psilocybin therapy with a conventional antidepressant drug in patients with depression – a study for which they are still recruiting volunteers. Building on this, they also plan to begin another new trial next year to explore the safety and feasibility of psilocybin for treating patients with anorexia.

Dr Carhart-Harris adds: “It may take a few years for psychedelic therapy to be available for patients, but research so far has been very encouraging. Early stage clinical research has shown that when delivered safely and professionally, psychedelic therapy holds a great deal of promise for treating some very serious mental health conditions and may one day offer new hope to vulnerable people with limited treatment options.”


If you are a student interested in conducting research with our Centre, please see the page join our research team.

Research publications

Citation

BibTex format

@article{Walpola:2017:10.1038/npp.2017.35,
author = {Walpola, IC and Nest, T and Roseman, L and Erritzoe, D and Feilding, A and Nutt, DJ and Carhart-Harris, RL},
doi = {10.1038/npp.2017.35},
journal = {Neuropsychopharmacology},
pages = {2152--2162},
title = {Altered Insula Connectivity under MDMA},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/npp.2017.35},
volume = {42},
year = {2017}
}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

TY  - JOUR
AB - Recent work with noninvasive human brain imaging has started to investigate the effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) on large-scale patterns of brain activity. MDMA, a potent monoamine-releaser with particularly pronounced serotonin- releasing properties, has unique subjective effects that include: marked positive mood, pleasant/unusual bodily sensations and pro-social, empathic feelings. However, the neurobiological basis for these effects is not properly understood, and the present analysis sought to address this knowledge gap. To do this, we administered MDMA-HCl (100 mg p.o.) and, separately, placebo (ascorbic acid) in a randomized, double-blind, repeated-measures design with twenty-five healthy volunteers undergoing fMRI scanning. We then employed a measure of global resting-state functional brain connectivity and follow-up seed-to-voxel analysis to the fMRI data we acquired. Results revealed decreased right insula/salience network functional connectivity under MDMA. Furthermore, these decreases in right insula/salience network connectivity correlated with baseline trait anxiety and acute experiences of altered bodily sensations under MDMA. The present findings highlight insular disintegration (ie, compromised salience network membership) as a neurobiological signature of the MDMA experience, and relate this brain effect to trait anxiety and acutely altered bodily sensations–both of which are known to be associated with insular functioning.
AU - Walpola,IC
AU - Nest,T
AU - Roseman,L
AU - Erritzoe,D
AU - Feilding,A
AU - Nutt,DJ
AU - Carhart-Harris,RL
DO - 10.1038/npp.2017.35
EP - 2162
PY - 2017///
SN - 0893-133X
SP - 2152
TI - Altered Insula Connectivity under MDMA
T2 - Neuropsychopharmacology
UR - http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/npp.2017.35
UR - http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/53238
VL - 42
ER -