Funded by more than £3 million from five founding donors, the Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research builds on over a decade of pioneering work in this area carried out at Imperial College London, including a clinical trial that has kick-started global efforts to develop psilocybin therapy into a licensed treatment for depression.
Led by Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, the Centre focuses on two main research themes: the use of psychedelics in mental health care and as tools to probe the brain’s basis of consciousness. It will also investigate their potential for treating other conditions, including anorexia.
The Centre aims to develop a research clinic that could help to gather additional clinical evidence and become a prototype for the licensed psychedelic care facilities of the future. It represents a watershed moment for psychedelic science, symbolic of its now mainstream recognition. Psychedelics are set to have a major impact on neuroscience and psychiatry in the coming years, and the Centre operates at the forefront of one of the most exciting areas in medical science. (text taken from the Imperial College London’s about page)
Imperial was the first Centre in the world to investigate the brain effects of LSD using modern brain imaging and the first to study psilocybin – the active compound in magic mushrooms – for treating severe depression. These studies have laid the groundwork for larger trials that are now taking place around the world. Other pioneering work from the group includes breakthrough neuroimaging research with psilocybin, MDMA, and DMT (the psychoactive compounds found in ecstasy and ayahuasca, respectively).
Earlier this year, the group began a new trial directly comparing psilocybin therapy with a conventional antidepressant drug in patients with depression – a study for which they are still recruiting volunteers. Building on this, they also plan to begin another new trial next year to explore the safety and feasibility of psilocybin for treating patients with anorexia.
Dr. Carhart-Harris adds: “It may take a few years for psychedelic therapy to be available for patients, but research so far has been very encouraging. Early stage clinical research has shown that when delivered safely and professionally, psychedelic therapy holds a great deal of promise for treating some very serious mental health conditions and may one day offer new hope to vulnerable people with limited treatment options.”
If you are a student and are interested in conducting research in our laboratory, you can get in touch with Imperial at email@example.com.
Watch expert Dr Robin Carhart-Harris explain exactly what happens to the brain on a trip