Speakers Detail

Dráulio Barros de Araujo received his Ph.D. in Physics Applied to Medicine and Biology from the University of São Paulo in Ribeirão Preto in 2002, where he engaged in post-doctoral studies on Functional Neuroimaging, became Assistant Professor, and then received the title of “livre-docente” (Associate). In 2009, he joined the Brain Institute at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), where he is currently Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, and Full Professor of Neuroimaging. His research deals with several aspects of neuroscience, using the methods of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and electroencephalography (EEG). In the last few years, Dr. Araujo has focused on the investigation of the cognitive and neural substrates of the Ayahuasca experience.

Gabor Maté M.D. is a Canadian physician, speaker and the author of four bestselling books published in nearly twenty languages on five continents. His interests include the mind/body unity as manifested in health and illness, the effects of early childhood experiences in shaping brain and personality, the traumatic basis of addictions, and the attachment requirements for healthy child development. He has worked in family practice and palliative care and for twelve years he worked in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, notorious as North America’s most concentrated area of drug use. Currently he teaches and leads seminars internationally. For more information, see: www.drgabormate.com

Sidarta Ribeiro, Ph.D., holds a Bachelors degree in Biological Sciences from the Universidade de Brasília (1993), a Masters in Biophysics from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (1994), and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Animal Behavior from the Rockefeller University in NewYork (2000). He performed post-doctoral studies in Neurophysiology at Duke University from 2000 to 2005. Currently, he is a Full Professor of Neuroscience at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), and Director of the Brain Institute of UFRN. He has experience in the areas of neuroethology, molecular neurobiology, and multi-electrode neurophysiology, and works mainly in the following areas: sleep, dreaming and memory; immediate genes and neuronal plasticity; vocal communication in birds and primates; and symbolic understanding in non-human animals. He is greatly interested in the study of the neural bases of consciousness and its alteration. He has been involved in the public debate on the medicinal uses and the legalization of cannabis in Brazil.

Dennis McKenna’s professional and personal interests are focused on the interdisciplinary study of ethnopharmacology and plant hallucinogens. He received his doctorate in 1984 from the University of British Columbia, where his doctoral research focused on ethnopharmacological investigations of the botany, chemistry, and pharmacology of ayahuasca and oo-koo-hé, two orally-active tryptamine-based hallucinogens used by indigenous peoples in the Northwest Amazon. Dr. McKenna received post-doctoral research fellowships in the Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health, and in the Department of Neurology, Stanford University School of Medicine. He joined Shaman Pharmaceuticals as Director of Ethnopharmacology in 1990, and relocated to Minnesota in 1993 to join the Aveda Corporation as Senior Research Pharmacognosist. He joined the faculty of the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota in 2001. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute and serves on the advisory board of non-profit organizations in the fields of ethnobotany and botanical medicines. He was a key organizer and participant in the Hoasca Project, an international biomedical study of ayahuasca used by indigenous people and syncretic religious groups in Brazil. He recently completed a project funded by the Stanley Medical Research Institute, to investigate Amazonian ethnomedicines for the treatment of schizophrenia and cognitive deficits. At the Heffter Research Institute, he continues his focus on the therapeutic uses of psychoactive medicines derived from nature and used in indigenous ethnomedical practices.

Luis Eduardo Luna studied Philosophy and Literature at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and earned an interdisciplinary Masters degree while teaching Spanish and Latin American Literature at the Department of Romance Languages of Oslo University. He is a former Senior Lecturer at the Swedish School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland, from where retired, and a former Professor of Anthropology at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil (1994-1998). He received a Ph.D. from the Institute of Comparative Religion at Stockholm University (1989), and an honorary doctorate from St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York (2000). Luna is a Guggenheim Fellow and Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London. He is the author of Vegetalismo: Shamanism Among the Mestizo Population of the Peruvian Amazon (1986), and with Pablo Amaringo of Ayahuasca Visions: The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman (1991). He is co-editor with Steven F. White of Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vine (2000), and co-author with Rick Strassman, Slawek Wojtowicz and Ede Frecska of Inner Paths to Outer Space: Journeys Through Psychedelics and Other Spiritual Technologies. In 1986 he co-founded with Pablo Amaringo the Usko-Ayar Amazonian School of Painting of Pucallpa, Peru, serving as its Director of International Exhibitions until 1994. He has lectured about Amazonian shamanism and modified states of consciousness worldwide, and has curated exhibitions of visionary art in several countries. He is the Director of Wasiwaska, in Florianópolis, Brazil. For more information, see: http://www.wasiwaska.org/

Ethan McIlhenny attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs New York and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Neuroscience in 2006. Ethan entered a Neuroscience Ph.D. program with a teaching assistanceship at Tulane University in New Orleans Louisiana and completed his Masters of Science degree in 2008. Ethan completed his Ph.D. at Louisiana State University in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Barker where he received a 4 year board of regents grant fellowship. Ethan continues research pursuits with the Cottonwood Research Foundation.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter, author and educator. The founder of Medicine Hunter Inc., Chris has conducted medicinal research in over 30 countries. Chris is the FOX News Medicine Hunter and appears on FOX News Health online and in 100 international television markets. He also writes a weekly column for FOX News Health and is on the Medical Advisory Board of The Dr. Oz Show. Since 1994 Chris has worked, traveled and studied with shamans in Brazil, Peru and North America. He has participated in many dozens of ceremonies, both with and without the ingestion of ceremonial psychoactive drugs. He is experienced with ayahuasca, San Pedro cactus, peyote, coca, and tobacco. Chris is recognized as a chief in Vanuatu, South Pacific, is known as “Maxipe” which means “black vulture” by the Macuxi indians of Brazil, and has lived with and visited dozens of native tribes in Amazonia and in other cultures. Shamans in both Brazil and Peru recognize Chris as one of their kind and a bridger of worlds, and have engaged in numerous ceremonies to bolster his energy and support his work with medicinal plants and native cultures.

Stephan V. Beyer, Ph.D., J.D. has doctoral degrees in both religious studies and psychology, and has taught as an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, the University of California – Berkeley, and Graduate Theological Union. Expert in both jungle survival and plant hallucinogens, he lived for a year and a half
in a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas, and has undertaken and helped to lead numerous four-day and four-night solo vision fasts in the desert wildernesses of New Mexico. He has studied the use of sacred and medicinal plants with traditional North America herbalists, in ceremonies of the Native American Church, in Peruvian mesa rituals, and with mestizo shamans in the Upper Amazon, where he received coronación by banco ayahuasquero don Roberto Acho Jurama. Steve’s current interests center on the indigenous ceremonial use of the sacred plants. He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Shamanic Practice, and currently serves on the advisory board of the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service. He is the author, among other books, of Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon. The Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions at the Smithsonian Institution has praised his “unparalleled knowledge of sacred plants.”

Dr. Joe Tafur, MD is a Colombian-American Integrative Family Physician who has been involved in Traditional Amazonian Plant Medicine since 2007. In addition to his involvement in South America, he has published several scientific papers and has worked on academic projects with the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine, the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, and the UCSD Center for Integrative Medicine. From 2007-2009, Dr. Tafur also worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the UCSD Department of Psychiatry, investigating low-intensity light therapy and psychoneuroimmunology. He now spends over half of the year working at the traditional Amazonian healing center Nihue Rao Centro Espiritual (www.nihuerao.com) along with his partners, Master Shipibo Healer Ricardo Amaringo and Cvita Mamic. Nihue Rao specializes in traditional Shipibo plant medicine, integrative healing and in particular, traditional ayahuasca ceremony.

Anya Loizaga-Velder is a German-Mexican clinical psychologist, who has been investigating the therapeutic potential of the ritual use of psychedelic plants for over 15 years. She is founding member and collaborating researcher of the Nierika, Multidisciplinary Association for the Preservation of the Indigenous Traditions of Sacred Plants in Mexico. She holds an M.A. degree in psychology from the University of Koblenz/Landau in Germany and currently is a doctoral candidate in Medical Psychology at Heidelberg University. This study is part of the special research group Ritual Dynamics and Salutogenesis (RISA, www.risa.uni-hd.de).

Philippe Lucas MA is a Research Affiliate with the Center for Addictions Research of British Columbia and a founding Board member of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies Canada and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. His research interests, projects and publications include the use of cannabis, ibogaine, and ayahuasca in the treatment of addiction. Currently, he is a Primary or Co-Investigator on a number of studies examining cannabis substitution theory, and Coordinator and Co-Investigator of an observational study of ayahuasca-assisted treatment for addiction and stress.

N. Rielle Capler, MHA, has worked as researcher and policy advisor in the medical cannabis field for 13 years. She helped pioneer Canada’s first compassion club where she worked as the policy analyst and research coordinator from 1999 to 2007. Rielle is a co-investigator on several community-based research projects, including the Health Effects of Medical Marijuana Project (HEMMP) with UBC’s School of Nursing, and the Medical Cannabis Standards, Engagement, Evaluation and Dissemination (SEED) Project. Rielle is a co-founder of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD) and Canadians for Safe Access, a national organization promoting safe access to cannabis for medical use and research. She sits on the advisory board of the Drug Policy Committee of the BC Civil Liberties Association. Rielle is currently a doctoral student in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of British Columbia.

Mitch Liester M.D. is a psychiatrist in private practice in Monument, Colorado. After graduating from medical school at the University of Colorado, Dr. Liester completed his psychiatric residency at the University of California, Irvine under the tutelage of Dr. Charles Grob. He has published in the areas of transpersonal psychiatry, near-death studies, and psychedelic medicines.

James Prickett D.O. is a resident physician and burgeoning researcher at the University of Arizona Department Of Psychiatry. He received his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from Des Moines University. Dr. Prickett’s primary interests lie within psychopharmacology, traditional medicine, and the relationship between belief, spirituality, and mental health. He has been a guest speaker on topics including autism, psychedelic drugs, adolescent substance abuse, and addiction. He has traveled to Ecuador on several occasions to study traditional medicine in both the Andes and Amazon Basin. His research regarding the possible mechanisms by which ayahuasca treats addictions has been published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

José Carlos Bouso is a Clinical Psychologist working at the Drug Research Center, Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona, researching the neuropsychopharmacology of hallucinogens and their neuropsychological long term effects.

Jessica Nielson, PhD, received her B.S. in biology from Cal Poly Pomona in 2003, and her Ph.D. in anatomy and neurobiology from the University of California, Irvine in 2010. During her doctoral work she resolved a century old controversy regarding the fate of the corticospinal tract following spinal cord injury, demonstrating definitively that this important motor pathway survives injury and is available in chronic cases for therapeutic interventions to promote regeneration and functional recovery. She joined the Brain and Spinal Injury Center at University of California San Francisco in 2011 as a postdoctoral scholar, where she has been developing a novel bioinformatics approach to characterize syndromic features of spinal cord injury, with future plans to apply this approach to traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brian Anderson is currently an MD candidate at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He also holds a MSc from the BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics and a BA in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2006 he has been a researcher with the Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP, www.neip.info). His anthropological fieldwork experience includes work with the undocumented Mexican immigrant population in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and with the União do Vegetal, an ayahuasca religion, in Bahia, Brazil.

Clancy Cavnar attended the New College of the University of South Florida and completed an undergraduate degree in liberal arts in 1982. She attended the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated with a Master of Fine Art in painting in 1985. In 1993 she received a certificate in substance abuse counseling from the extension program of the University of California at Berkeley. In 1997, she graduated with a Master’s in Counseling from San Francisco State University. In that same year she got in touch with the Santo Daime in the U.S.A, and has traveled several times to Brazil since then. In 2011, she received a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (PsyD) from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California, with a dissertation on gay and lesbian people’s experiences with ayahuasca. She is co-editor with Beatriz C. Labate of the book “The Expansion and Reinvention of Ayahuasca Shamanism” (Oxford University Press, in press). She is also a researcher with the Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP, www.neip.info).

Jan Weinhold studied psychology at the Humb
oldt-University Berlin. Since 2002 he has been working as a research psychologist within the Collaborative Research Centre “Dynamics of Ritual” (SFB 619 “Ritualdynamik”) at Heidelberg University. His research interests cover the use of psychoactive substances in relation to ritual studies, drug-abuse prevention, cross-cultural psychology, altered states of consciousness and systemic psychotherapy. He has published articles in the field of ritual studies and drug use and has co-edited the volumes “Rituals on the move [Rituale in Bewegung]”, LIT-Verlag, 2006; “Therapy with psychoactive substances: approaches to and critique of psychotherapy with LSD, Psilocybin and MDMA [Therapie mit psychoaktiven Substanzen: Praxis und Kritik der Psychotherapie mit LSD, Psilocybin und MDMA]”, Huber, 2008; “The problem of ritual efficacy”, Oxford University Press, 2010; “The varieties of ritual experience”, Harrassowitz, 2010.

Kevin Feeney, J.D., received his law degree from the University of Oregon in 2005, and is currently a student of Anthropology at Washington State University (USA), where he is studying the religious use of peyote in American Indian traditions. Other research interests include examining legal and regulatory issues surrounding the religious and cultural use of psychoactive substances, with an emphasis on ayahuasca and peyote, and exploring modern and traditional uses of Amanita muscaria, with a specific focus on variations in harvest and preparation practices. He is co-author, with Richard Glen Boire, of Medical Marijuana Law (2007).

Beatriz Caiuby Labate has a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the State University of Campinas (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, UNICAMP), Brazil. Her main areas of interest are the study of psychoactive substances, drug policies, shamanism, ritual, and religion. She is Visiting Professor at the Drug Policy Program of the Center for Economic Research and Education (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE) in Aguascalientes, Mexico. She is also Research Associate at the Institute of Medical Psychology, Heidelberg University, co-founder of the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP), and editor of its site (http://www.neip.info). She is author, co-author, and co-editor of eight books, two with English translations, one journal special edition, and several peer-reviewed articles. For more information, see: http://bialabate.net/

Kenneth W. Tupper, Ph.D., is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. His 2011 Ph.D. dissertation focused on ayahuasca, entheogenic education and public policy. His other research interests include the cross-cultural and historical uses of psychoactive substances; public, professional and school-based drug education; and the creation of effective public policies to maximize benefits and minimize harms from currently illegal drugs. For more information, see: www.kentupper.com