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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{Stroud:2017:10.1007/s00213-017-4754-y,
author = {Stroud, JB and Freeman, TP and Leech, R and Hindocha, C and Lawn, W and Nutt, DJ and Curran, HV and Carhart-Harris, RL},
doi = {10.1007/s00213-017-4754-y},
journal = {Psychopharmacology},
pages = {459--466},
title = {Psilocybin with psychological support improves emotional face recognition in treatment-resistant depression},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00213-017-4754-y},
volume = {235},
year = {2017}
}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

TY  - JOUR
AB - RATIONALE: Depressed patients robustly exhibit affective biases in emotional processing which are altered by SSRIs and predict clinical outcome. OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study is to investigate whether psilocybin, recently shown to rapidly improve mood in treatment-resistant depression (TRD), alters patients' emotional processing biases. METHODS: Seventeen patients with treatment-resistant depression completed a dynamic emotional face recognition task at baseline and 1 month later after two doses of psilocybin with psychological support. Sixteen controls completed the emotional recognition task over the same time frame but did not receive psilocybin. RESULTS: We found evidence for a group × time interaction on speed of emotion recognition (p = .035). At baseline, patients were slower at recognising facial emotions compared with controls (p < .001). After psilocybin, this difference was remediated (p = .208). Emotion recognition was faster at follow-up compared with baseline in patients (p = .004, d = .876) but not controls (p = .263, d = .302). In patients, this change was significantly correlated with a reduction in anhedonia over the same time period (r = .640, p = .010). CONCLUSIONS: Psilocybin with psychological support appears to improve processing of emotional faces in treatment-resistant depression, and this correlates with reduced anhedonia. Placebo-controlled studies are warranted to follow up these preliminary findings.
AU - Stroud,JB
AU - Freeman,TP
AU - Leech,R
AU - Hindocha,C
AU - Lawn,W
AU - Nutt,DJ
AU - Curran,HV
AU - Carhart-Harris,RL
DO - 10.1007/s00213-017-4754-y
EP - 466
PY - 2017///
SN - 0033-3158
SP - 459
TI - Psilocybin with psychological support improves emotional face recognition in treatment-resistant depression
T2 - Psychopharmacology
UR - http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00213-017-4754-y
UR - http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/53273
VL - 235
ER -