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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{Timmermann:2017:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.10.039,
author = {Timmermann, C and Spriggs, MJ and Kaelen, M and Leech, R and Nutt, DJ and Moran, RJ and Carhart-Harris, RL and Muthukumaraswamy, SD},
doi = {10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.10.039},
journal = {Neuropharmacology},
title = {LSD modulates effective connectivity and neural adaptation mechanisms in an auditory oddball paradigm.},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.10.039},
year = {2017}
}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

TY  - JOUR
AB - Under the predictive coding framework, perceptual learning and inference are dependent on the interaction between top-down predictions and bottom-up sensory signals both between and within regions in a network. However, how such feedback and feedforward connections are modulated in the state induced by lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is poorly understood. In this study, an auditory oddball paradigm was presented to healthy participants (16 males, 4 female) under LSD and placebo, and brain activity was recorded using magnetoencephalography (MEG). Scalp level Event Related Fields (ERF) revealed reduced neural adaptation to familiar stimuli, and a blunted neural 'surprise' response to novel stimuli in the LSD condition. Dynamic causal modelling revealed that both the presentation of novel stimuli and LSD modulate backward extrinsic connectivity within a task-activated fronto-temporal network, as well as intrinsic connectivity in the primary auditory cortex. These findings show consistencies with those of previous studies of schizophrenia and ketamine but also studies of reduced consciousness - suggesting that rather than being a marker of conscious level per se, backward connectivity may index modulations of perceptual learning common to a variety of altered states of consciousness, perhaps united by a shared altered sensitivity to environmental stimuli. Since recent evidence suggests that the psychedelic state may correspond to a heightened 'level' of consciousness with respect to the normal waking state, our data warrant a re-examination of the top-down hypotheses of conscious level and suggest that several altered states may feature this specific biophysical effector.
AU - Timmermann,C
AU - Spriggs,MJ
AU - Kaelen,M
AU - Leech,R
AU - Nutt,DJ
AU - Moran,RJ
AU - Carhart-Harris,RL
AU - Muthukumaraswamy,SD
DO - 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.10.039
PY - 2017///
SN - 0028-3908
TI - LSD modulates effective connectivity and neural adaptation mechanisms in an auditory oddball paradigm.
T2 - Neuropharmacology
UR - http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.10.039
ER -