OPEN Foundation

MAS 2010 Talks

All video talks from MAS 2010

Konstantin Kuteykin-Teplyakov – Molecules of Mysticism: Pharmacology Meets Anthropology

“Molecules of mysticism” are chemical substances that are able to induce mystical experience, increasing the feeling of closeness to the god (entheogens) or to other people (empathogens). It is quite likely, that every mystical experience is mediated chemically, either by some substances of external origin or by endogenous molecules produced directly in the brain. There are plenty of chemical structures, associated with entheogenic and empathogenic properties, and their action involves the release of other neurotransmitters, binding to many brain receptors (5-HT2a, 5-HT2c, 5-HT1a, CB1, NMDA, mAChR, etc.) followed by activation of several signal transduction pathways and alterations in gene transcription profile. Additionally, the mechanisms of several adverse effects for entheogens and empathogens have been elucidated during the last years. Considering that “molecules of mysticism” works not only and not so much on the body level, but mainly on consciousness and behaviour, and given the intrinsic difficulties associated with lab-based studies of scheduled substances on human beings, the methods of social anthropology (observation during fieldwork, surveys, interviews, and analysis of reports) might be used to supplement the classical pharmacological methodology. Web2.0 approach, based on content generated by users (like forums, wikis, online-based databanks of “trip reports”, multimedia-sharing services etc.), also may serve as a valuable tool and information source to study the relationship between drugs and humans.

About Konstantin Kuteykin-Teplyakov

Konstantin Kuteykin-Teplyakov, PhD, investigates the relationship between human beings and chemical substances by combining the methods of pharmacology and anthropology, with a special focus on Web 2.0 technologies. During his work as a researcher in Russia and Germany, he studied the molecular mechanism of brain function, as well as the implication of progress in pharmacology for modern society.

Torsten Passie – Astonishing Similarities of Physiological and Psychoactive Drug Induced States

Dr. Passie completed his training as a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy as well as his academic work at the Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich, in practice by Prof. Hans Carl Leuner in Göttingen and Hannover Medical School. He wrote his doctorate on existential aspects of psychiatric disorders and habilitation of altered states of consciousness. Prior to joining Oberberg, Dr. Passie was the Chief Physician of the Department of Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, and Medical Director of the Hannover Centre of the Federal German model project for heroin assisted treatment of opiate addicts at the Medical University of Hannover.

Joe Bicknell – Cognitive Phenomenology of the Psychedelic Experience

Psychedelic phenomenology deals with the phenomenal content of psychedelic tripping, thus phenomenology approaches psychedelics from the reverse direction of the scientific approach, because instead of looking at the structures of physical brain chemistry and drug chemistry as scientists do, phenomenologists instead examine the structures of consciousness itself. The main concern of my research is the cognitive mechanisms that underlie the process of psychedelic mental transformation; that is, the transition from one worldview to another during the course of psychedelic exploration. An important aspect of this research is a revival of the old conception of psychedelic drugs as ‘psychotomimetic’, the trip experience is essentially a kind of temporary psychosis (that is, a temporary disconnection or disengagement from ordinary intersubjective reality). The core concept behind an understanding of psychedelic phenomenology is that of cognitive ‘hyperreflexivity’ (or ‘dissociation’). During psychedelic experiencing, consciousness is disconnected from external reality to some degree, and is concomitantly focused inwards towards the cognitive mechanisms that underlie subjectivity. This intensely inward-pointing perspective that is opened up during the trip experience creates the possibility for drastic reorganisation of psychological structures (specifically, the matrices of cognitive associations that hold together the sense of stable self-identity in the ordinary state of consciousness) which results in profound re-conception of ideas about the self and its relationship to time and the world.

David Luke – Exploring Exceptional Human Experience on Psychedelics: Ayahuasca, Telepathine and Parapsychology

The Amazonian sacramental decoction, ayahuasca (containing an alkaloid once called telepathine by Westerners), has been used by indigenous shamans and healers for several millennia. Apparently, for the explicit purposes of accessing altered states conducive to clairvoyance, precognition, telepathy, out-of-body travel, psychic diagnosis, psychic healing, and spirit communication. It has been argued that the endogenous neurochemicals present in this brew also play a primary neurological role in the occurrence of spontaneous parapsychological phenomena. However, although the neurobiological, anthropological and phenomenological evidence for this hypothesis is promising, the experimental parapsychological evidence to date is scant, poorly controlled, and inconclusive. Consequently, a recent parapsychological field study conducted in South America aimed to test the hypothesis that the ingestion of ayahuasca can increase performance on a task designed to measure precognition – the supposed ability to predict the future without recourse to any prior knowledge. The methods used and the results of this research project are discussed, along with the implications for neuroscience, medicine, parapsychology, philosophy of mind and psychedelic research.

About David Luke

David Luke, PhD, is currently President of the Parapsychological Association, the international professional body for researchers in this field, and Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich, UK, where he teaches an undergraduate course on the Psychology of Exceptional Human Experiences. He is also Research Associate at the Beckley Foundation, Oxford, UK, which promotes research into the neuroscience of consciousness and its altered states, and he is a guest lecturer at the University of Northampton, UK. As a writer and researcher he has a special interest in altered states of consciousness and he has studied ostensibly paranormal phenomena and techniques of consciousness alteration from every continent of the globe, from the perspective of scientists, shamans and Shivaites.

Klaas Pieter van der Tempel – Psychedelic Consciousness and the Future of Academia

How does the psychedelic experience affect the knowledge and motivation of the scientist? And what does this mean for academia in general? To answer such questions, this presentation will focus on the master’s thesis “How to Go Out of Your Mind and Come Back Again” as well as the challenges faced while communicating psychedelic consciousness to the academic elite of the Netherlands. As a historical and philosophical study, this research attempts to place the psychedelically experienced scientist into a modern context where counterculture, psychedelics, and mainstream science meet.

Katharina Kirchner – LSD-assisted Psychotherapy. First Results from the Swiss Follow-up Study

After more than 40 years the first study employing LSD in psychotherapy is being conducted in Switzerland. 12 persons suffering from a life-threatening disease and an anxiety disorder are having the possibility to receive 200µg of LSD in a therapeutic setting. This talk will present the methodology and set-up of the study lead by Dr. P. Gasser. Furthermore the results from the pilot interviews of the follow-up study will be debuted. The interviews were conducted approximately one year after finishing the therapy and were aimed to reveal effects on daily life and long-term changes. Even though it is too early to make generally valid statements, first impressions from the client-centered research give valuable ideas for further research and indicate potential problems.

About Katharina Kirchner

Katharina Kirchner is currently involved with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) as an assistant to Dr. P. Gasser for the study of “LSD-assisted psychotherapy in persons suffering from anxiety associated with advanced-stage life-threatening diseases”. She conducted her master thesis in “LSD-supported psychotherapy, effects on daily life and long term changes”, supervised by Dr. P. Gasser & Dr. R. Stohler. Prior she joined a research project in Harare, Zimbabwe, for two months, which concerned the social- psychological evaluation of the implementation of solar disinfected water (SODIS)-strategy, in cooperation with UZH, ETH Zürich and EAWAG.

Jacqueline Braak – Insight in Ayahuasca

In literature much can be found about the visions and the insights people can get from ayahuasca. What is striking here is that the visions are described in great detail while the insights only marginally are mentioned. This lack of information lead to a bachelor thesis on the insights ayahuasca can give. What kinds of insights can people get? Are these insights applicable in daily life? If yes, how do people use these insights? These questions were central in the research ‘Insight in Ayahuasca’. Through interviews a first effort was made to answer these questions. The difference in setting and its possible influence on the insights people gain is also researched. A distinction was made between the religious setting (Santo Daime) and the ritual setting (shamanistic/therapeutic) and if the insights can actually be used in daily life. In this presentation the results of this research will be set out.

Ruud Litjens – Ibogaine in the Treatment of Substance Dependence

Ibogaine has been used for centuries by members of the Bwiti religion in western equatorial Africa as a religious sacrament, medicine and hunting aid. Since the discovery of the ability of ibogaine to interrupt addiction and withdrawal symptoms by Howard Lotsof it has also become of interest to the West. The complex pharmacology of ibogaine, in addition to its natural origin has caused it to be a substance that is of little interest to the pharmaceutical industry. However, over the years ibogaine has proven to be at least reasonably effective in treating different substance addictions in animal models. In the few clinical trials that were performed ibogaine showed promising results. Setbacks in the development of the drug have been its neurotoxic effects in rats and a number of deaths that were related to its use. In recent years little has been published regarding ibogaine research. In the meanwhile ibogaine use appears to be increasing in non-clinical settings and private clinics all over the world, the uncontrolled experiment continues. Should further research into ibogaine be pursued?

Peter Oehen – MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy: Method and Current Research

Attempts to boost the effectiveness of psychotherapy by combining it with psychotropic medications such as antidepressants or anxiolytics have shown rather limited effects and acute gains have tended to be lost when the drug is discontinued. In recent years, however, there has been growing interest in studying pharmacological interventions that may boost the effectiveness of psychotherapy not by treating symptoms directly but by catalyzing the psychotherapeutic process itself. These approaches use isolated doses of drugs in conjunction with psychotherapy sessions rather than ongoing daily drug doses. Thus, after a hiatus of over 20 years, “psychedelic” compounds such as MDMA or psilocybin are once again becoming subjects of serious, well-controlled clinical studies.  This presentation will illustrate the neurophysiological and –psychological rationale of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, as well as the nature of the therapeutic process with clinical vignettes. Outcome data from the completed US and ongoing Swiss studies will be presented, which suggest a promising future for this model of drug-assisted psychotherapy.

Daniel Waterman – Explanatory Models, Empirical Research and ‘Cognitive Liberty’

The revival of psychedelic research signals an inspiring change in official attitudes towards ‘mind-altering’ substances, altered states of consciousness and their potential as catalysts of religious/mystical experience, ‘self-healing’, consciousness research and creative expression. At the same time this ‘research’ still requires authorization by institutions that have a monopoly on the manufacture, trade and application of mind-altering substances, and that continue to enforce a ban on their use and to promote coercive interventions and punishments against those who use these substances outside authorized medical and scientific research.

The aim of this conversation is to examine the ways beliefs, assumptions, hypotheses and/or understandings impact the interpretation of empirical research used to silence and exclude ‘drug users’ from the ‘court of specialized discourse’ in which their fundamental rights are discussed and decided. Contrary to expectations, we will argue that a radical improvement in the effectiveness of regulatory measures can be achieved at little or no extra cost, possibly even with enormous cost-saving, and without recourse to complex medical or scientific explanatory models, simply through the adoption of reasonable differentiations, that are based on the outcome of drug use, and neutral with respect to the drug, the agent’s intent, and the setting in which drug use occurs.