Heffter-Zurich Center Psilocybin-Serotonin Receptor Research.

A recent focus of the Heffter Zürich Research Center has been an examination of serotonin 5-HT2A neuroreceptor dynamics in the human brain following psilocybin, and its potential relevance for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders (OCSDs), including OCD and eating disorders. The study is being carried out by Dr. Felix Hasler, Ph.D. and Boris B. Quednow, under the direction of Heffter board member Franz X. Vollenweider. Initial studies involved synthesizing the positron-emitting tracer molecule [18F]-altanserin, which binds to brain serotonin 5-HT2A receptors. Using positron-emission tomography (PET), the location and density of these receptors can then be visualized in the living human brain. The picture on the left is a side view showing the 5-HT2A brain receptors where psilocybin acts. The receptor density is correlated with colour, where red/yellow are the highest receptor concentrations. Administration of psilocybin can completely prevent the binding of the radioactive tracer to this area. Preliminary analysis reveals a strong and consistent decrease (30%) of [18F]-altanserin binding in the psilocybin condition as compared to placebo.

Study of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine-Assisted Psychotherapy in People With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Sponsors and Collaborators: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies,
Swiss Medical Association for Psycholytic Therapy
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00353938

Location: Solothurn (Switzerland) Contact: Peter G Oehen, MD 0041-32-672-0606, peter.oehen (at) hin.ch

This study is a randomized, double-blind comparison of low versus experimental doses of MDMA in 12 people with treatment-resisted PTSD, with eight people receiving 125 mg followed by 62.5 mg MDMA, and four people receiving 25 mg followed by 12.5 mg MDMA. Everyone will receive three separate experimental sessions during a full course of psychotherapy. PTSD symptoms before the study will be compared with symptoms after two sessions and after all three sessions, and all people who received 125 mg will have symptoms measured again 6 and 12 months after the final experimental session. People who received low dose MDMA will have an opportunity to take part in a second open-label continuation. Ten subjects are enrolled as of November 2008, and two have been enrolled in Stage 2.

LSD-assisted psychotherapy for 12 people with anxiety related to life-threatening illness

Sponsor: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: none
Location: Solothurn, Switzerland
Contact: Peter Gasser MD, pgasser (at) gmx.met

This research will study the safety and efficacy of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in reducing anxiety arising from diagnosis with a serious illness and limited life expectancy, in 12 participants in Switzerland by Dr. Peter Gasser. The study is primarily intended to meet two goals. The first is to discover whether LSD-assisted psychotherapy can be safely administered to individuals with a severe prognosis and short estimated life expectancy who suffer from anxiety related to their diagnosis and the severity of their disease or condition. The second goal is to determine whether this therapy will produce improvements in symptoms of anxiety, using the Spielberger State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) as a primary outcome measure of anxiety. The study’s annual report can be found here.

Physiological correlates of PTSD before and after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.

Investigators: Dominique Holstein MS Location: University Psychiatric Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland. Contact: Christian Schopper MD , Franz Vollenweider MD

This study is taking place in conjunction with a randomized, double-blind comparison of low versus experimental doses of MDMA in 12 people with treatment-resisted PTSD, with eight people receiving 125 mg followed by 62.5 mg MDMA, and four people receiving 25 mg followed by 12.5 mg MDMA being conducted by Peter Oehen MD. Dr. Oehen’s study offers a unique opportunity to investigate further possible links between changes in physiological measures associated with the symptomatology of PTSD and improvement in patients undergoing treatment and symptom relief. People with PTSD may have deficits in information processing such as failures in sensory gating or filtering out information. Such measures of inhibition failure include prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle reflex and P50 auditory evoked potential suppression. Measures of impaired cognitive performance include various types of evoked response potential (EEG-ERP). Psychophysiological measures include skin conductance and heart rate variability. Differences in these measures are associated with having PTSD, but they have never been measured in the same individuals as part of a single investigation before. Thus the aim of the present longitudinal study is 1) to characterize PTSD patients using a broad range of physiological candidate measures (PPI, P50, SC, HRV) and cognitive paradigms (P200, P300), and second, to investigate how these measures relate to the symptomatology of PTSD and clinical outcome.
All PTSD patients that participate in Dr. Oehens study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy will be assessed at baseline, before undergoing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, and three weeks after the third MDMA-assisted session. On the long run, the assessment of multiple physiological measures in PTSD patients shall further our understanding of the pathophysiology of this illness and increases the possibility to identify subgroups of PTSD patients, and help to identify more specific treatments.

Psilocybin Effects on Attention, Perception and Cognition

Investigators: Franz Vollenweider MD, Olivia Carter PhD, Felix Hasler MD
Psychiatric University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland…
Sponsor: Heffter
Dr. Vollenweider and colleagues continue to study the neural correlates of consciousness and the effects of psilocybin on visual perception, attention, working memory, and time perception. Other studies will use EEG or positron emission tomography (PET) imaging.. Several published reports describe research findings, and other reports are forthcoming, or studies are underway at present.

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