For many years the Beckley Foundation has been working at opening up psychedelic research in the UK. Finally Amanda Feilding has been successful initiating and collaborating on a project that is currently being managed by Dr Robin Carhart-Harris under the supervision of Professor David Nutt, Head of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, and Chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. This landmark project involves investigating the effects of psilocybin on brain activity and blood flow, using the functional brain imaging technique fMRI.
Psilocybin is a psychedelic drug and the active constituent of psilocybe mushrooms (magic mushrooms). Psilocybin shares pharmacological and psychological properties with other psychedelics such as lysergic acid diethylamine (LSD) and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). In a remarkable burst of activity between the 1950s and mid-1960s, more than 1000 clinical papers discussing 40,000 patients, several dozen books, and 6 international conferences on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, testified to an intense scientific interest in Psilocybin. In the late 1960s, an escalating recreational use along with sensational media reports of serious adverse psychological reactions led to a significant tightening of restrictions on research. It has only been in the last decade or so that scientists have begun to work again with this group of compounds, and this research program represents the first ever UK-based scientific study on the effects of psilocybin in human volunteers for many decades.
This study is part of a wider Beckley research program investigating the effects of psychedelics, the first study in this program assessed safety concerns of how participants’ would react in a mock-fMRI environment under the influence of psilocybin, all participants tolerated the drug remarkably well.
This led to the second phase of this program which we have recently completed, in which we measured changes in brain blood flow after psilocybin in 15 participants, using the fMRI technique of Arterial Spin Labelling (ASL).
The study is now completed and is currently being written-up for submission to a high impact journal. Significant decreases in cerebral blood flow were recorded in a number of important cortical and subcortical regions. Results will be shown here once the article is published in scientific press.