Neuroscience of Psychedelics

Neuroscience of Psychedelics

Thursday, 18 April 2013, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Workshop leaders will present the latest advances in scientific understanding of how psychedelics affect the brain, in terms that are accurate yet accessible. Topics will include: DMT and its role in the brain, new views on the receptor interactions of psychedelic agents, mechanisms of psychedelic-induced visuals, what makes MDMA different from most other psychedelics, and up-to-date information on the potential harms and benefits of these fascinating compounds.

Until his retirement in June 2012, David E. Nichols, PhD, was the Robert C. and Charlotte P. Anderson Distinguished Chair in Pharmacology, and a Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Purdue University. He also was an Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He currently is an Adjunct Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Dave Nichols received his PhD from the University of Iowa in 1973, followed by a postdoctoral stint in Pharmacology. From his time as a graduate student, Nichols focused his research on the relationship between molecular structure and the action of substances that modify behavior. His research took him to Purdue University in 1974, where he remained until his retirement this year.

His research was funded by government agencies for more than three decades. Internationally recognized for his research on centrally active drugs, he is one of the world’s foremost authorities on psychedelic agents, and founded the nonprofit Heffter Research Institute in 1993. He also was a pioneer in the study of the medicinal chemistry of dopamine D1 receptor agonists, and in 1991 he and his colleagues first showed that dopamine D1 agonists had remarkable efficacy in a primate model of Parkinson’s disease. He consults for the pharmaceutical industry and has served on numerous committees and government review groups.

Dr. Franz X. Vollenweider is currently the Vice-Director of Research and Teaching and Director of the “Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging” Research Unit of the University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich East, and Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, University of Zurich. He is also the Director of Heffter Research Centre Zürich for Consciousness Studies (HRC-ZH) which he founded in 1998 and in-cooperated in his research group as well as President of the Swiss Neuromatrix Foundation for the Study of Consciousness. Dr. Vollenweider received his MD degree at the University of Zurich. He completed his doctoral thesis in experimental medicine at the Institute of Toxicology of the University and ETH of Zurich, was trained in neurochemistry at the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zurich, and in neuroimaging at the PET Centre of the PSI-ETH. In 1994 he became certified in the specialities of psychiatry and psychotherapy. His research interests encompass the area of psychopathology, cognitive neuroscience, and behavioural psychopharmacology of psychotic and affective disorders.

Current research focuses on the investigation of the functional networks and transmitter dynamics underlying the experience of self, visual perception, cognitive and emotional processes in normal waking and psychedelic states and on the dysfunctions of these processes in psychiatric disorders. Multiple approaches including measures of information processing, event-related potentials, and brain imaging techniques are used for studying these functions. Dr. Vollenweider has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers, many of which addressing the mechanisms of action of psychostimulants, hallucinogens, and entactogens in humans. His research is supported by multiple grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Federal Health Office, and the Heffter Research Institute (USA), and by multiple AWARDS from the NARSAD and the Fetzer Research Institute USA. He has received the Achievement Award of the Swiss Society of Psychiatry (1990), the Heffter Research Institute Award (1997), the Götz Prize of the University of Zurich (2000), and the British Association of Psychopharmacology Prize (2002), and the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP 1999, 2003, 2010).