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Watch > Episode > Robin Carhart-Harris - The Science of Psychedelics

Robin Carhart-Harris - The Science of Psychedelics

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Head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research, Imperial College London

Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris is a psychologist, neuroscientist and Head of the Psychedelic Research Centre at Imperial College London, the world’s first organisation dedicated to the research of mind-altering substances and focusing on three key areas of study: mental health, social science and neuroscience. Robin was the first in the world to investigate the effects of LSD using modern brain imaging, and the first to study psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, for treating severe depression.

Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris is a psychologist, neuroscientist and Head of the Psychedelic Research Centre at Imperial College London, the world’s first organisation dedicated to the research of mind-altering substances and focusing on three key areas of study: mental health, social science and neuroscience. Robin was the first in the world to investigate the effects of LSD using modern brain imaging, and the first to study psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, for treating severe depression.

In his latest London Real appearance, Dr. Carhart-Harris discusses the impact of psychedelics on mental health and the future for the use of alternative treatments in the well-being space.

Born in 1979, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris has emerged as a visionary figure in the realm of psychedelic science, steering the course of research into uncharted territories of consciousness and mental health. His pioneering work at and his dedication to unravelling the mysteries of psychedelics have left an indelible mark on the scientific community.

Dr. Carhart-Harris embarked on his academic journey with a focus on neuropsychopharmacology, earning his Ph.D. in Psychopharmacology from the University of Bristol. While his early research delved into the effects of recreational drugs, his intellectual curiosity and the evolving landscape of psychedelic science led him to explore the therapeutic potential of these substances.

At Imperial College London, Dr. Carhart-Harris established the Centre for Psychedelic Research, a trailblazing institution dedicated to understanding the mysteries of psychedelics and their impact on the human mind. Under his guidance, the centre has become a global focal point for cutting-edge research, drawing researchers, clinicians, and enthusiasts from around the world.

One of Dr. Carhart-Harris’s most notable contributions lies in his exploration of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms, as a potential treatment for depression. The groundbreaking studies conducted at Imperial College London demonstrated that carefully administered psilocybin sessions could induce transformative and enduring improvements in individuals with treatment-resistant depression.

Central to Dr. Carhart-Harris’s work is the exploration of the Default Mode Network (DMN), a network of brain regions associated with self-referential thinking. His research has shown that psychedelics, particularly psilocybin, can temporarily suppress the DMN, leading to what is often described as “ego dissolution.” This phenomenon, characterised by a temporary loss of the sense of self, is considered a crucial element in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

Dr. Carhart-Harris’s contributions extend into the realm of neuroimaging, where he has employed advanced techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the neural correlates of psychedelic experiences. His work has offered unprecedented insights into the brain dynamics associated with altered states of consciousness induced by psychedelics, furthering our understanding of the brain-mind relationship.

Beyond the laboratory, Dr. Carhart-Harris is a vocal advocate for responsible research practices and public awareness. He emphasises the need for a balanced approach to psychedelic exploration, combining scientific rigour with ethical considerations. His efforts to demystify psychedelics and foster an open dialogue have contributed to a shift in public perception and acceptance of these substances.

Dr. Carhart-Harris’s influence extends far beyond the walls of Imperial College London. He has forged collaborations with researchers and institutions worldwide, fostering a global network of psychedelic scientists and enthusiasts. His impact on the field has played a pivotal role in rekindling interest in psychedelic research and challenging the stigmas associated with these substances.

As a trailblazer in psychedelic science, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris’s legacy is inextricably linked to the ongoing transformation of our understanding of consciousness and mental health. His work has laid the foundation for a renaissance in psychedelic research, shaping the trajectory of future studies and influencing how society perceives these powerful substances.

Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris is recognised as a luminary in the field of psychedelic science, navigating uncharted waters with scientific rigour and visionary insight. His contributions have not only expanded the frontiers of knowledge but have also ignited a renaissance in the scientific exploration of psychedelics, promising new horizons for mental health treatment and the understanding of human consciousness.


Chapters

00:00 | Trailer.
02:38 | Brian’s thoughts on the episode.
03:45 | Brian’s introduction.
04:31 | Developments in his field of research over last 6 years.
08:08 | Why it was Robin’s dream to carry out research into the effect of psychedelics on the brain.
11:27 | Difficulty in shifting medical and scientific mindset.
12:58 | The scientist’s need to maintain an objective and neutral perspective in their work.
19:39 | His answer to the question “so what do you do?”
22:38 | The history of government and public perception of psychedelics,
29:59 | What effect psychedelics have on the brain.
50:15 | If we understood the mind we understand life.
54:03 | Pivotal moment between controlled or uncontrolled use of psychedelics can be curative or adversely.
1:01:07 | The line between scientific proof and belief in curative effect,
1:06:03 | Integration after a psychedelic experience.
1:11:56 | Robin’s thoughts on why there is currently an increase in the taking of psychedelics.
1:18:25 | What the psychedelic acceptance and landscape may be in 100 years.
1:29:10 | Psychedelic use thousands of years ago.
1:31:05 | The connection with nature and a psychedelic experience.
1:37:39 | Robin’s view on the current world of political divide and society’s future.
1:40:19 | What excites him about the next two years of his work in a field which has been frustrated until now
1:45:44 | Research into synthetic psychedelics.
1:53:07 | Would everyone benefit from a psychedelic experience?
1:53:30 | Experiments with DMT and our symbiotic relationship with nature.
2:03:27 | Robin’s daily practice.
2:05:15 | What is Robin’s superpower.
2:07:56 | The best and worst days of his life.
2:10:11 | What scares him.
2:11:14 | What happens after death.
2:15:38 | What we would be surprised to learn about Robin.
2:15:52 | What keeps him awake at night.
2:17:21 | Advice to the 21 years old Robin
2:18:02 | Success secrets.
2:18:44 | Brian’s summing up.

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