Last week, OPEN executive director Joost Breeksema and OPEN board members Michiel van Elk and Patricia Pisters gave lectures during the second edition of the Summer School on Psychedelic Research in Groningen, the Netherlands. Close to 50 participants from around the globe attended the Summer School, which was co-organised by the Research School of Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences (BCN) of the University of Groningen, the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) and the OPEN Foundation.
Joost Breeksema spoke about the adverse effects of psychedelic use and offered an in-depth look at his qualitative research into the personal experiences of patients undergoing treatments with different psychedelics for severe mental disorders. Michiel van Elk shed light on the working mechanisms of psychedelics and the methodological challenges of psychedelic research during his two lectures. Patricia Pisters presented a fascinating analysis of aesthetics within psychedelic cinema.
Breeksema, who is also the coordinator of the Summer School on Psychedelic Research, looks back on a highly successful second edition: ‘It was magnificent. The Summer School has grown in size and grown in quality. We had such a wide variety of Netherlands-based researchers from multiple disciplines. There are so many different angles from which psychedelics can be studied. We brought all these different perspectives together.’
The Summer School welcomed students from a wide range of different academic disciplines and levels, from bachelor students to PhD candidates and postdocs. People traveled to Groningen from all over the world to take part: from China to Colombia, from Brazil to Australia and from differents parts of Europe to the US. Breeksema describes the Summer School week as ‘a sort of pressure cooker of learning, interacting and creating. Only something beautiful could come out of it.’
Next to an impressive amount of engaging lectures, the Summer School students were surprised with a diverse social programme, featuring an open-air yoga session, a cozy social hangout around a bonfire and a screening of the captivating documentary Descending the Mountain. One of the major highlights of the week, according to many, was a sacred cacao ceremony where the participants experienced a deep connection with themselves and each other.
A wide range of topics within the field of psychedelic science and research was covered during the Summer School, including but not limited to:
- Ketamine assisted psychotherapy for patients with trauma resistent depression (Jeanine Kamphuis, psychiatrist and researcher at the University Psychiatric Center in Groningen).
- The use of MDMA in PTSD treatment (Eric Vermetten, professor of medical-biological and psychiatric aspects of psychotrauma at the University of Leiden).
- Psychedelics and cognition (Stefanie Enriquez-Geppert, assistant professor at the department of clinical and developmental neuropsychology at the University of Groningen).
- Microdosing psychedelics (Kim Kuypers, associate professor at the faculty of psychology and neuroscience at Maastricht University).
- The philosophy of psychedelics (Aidan Lyon, philosopher at the University of Amsterdam).
- Validity threats in psychedelic science (Eiko Fried, associate professor at the University of Leiden).
- Psychedelics in religious studies (André van der Braak, professor of comparative philosophy of religion at the VU Amsterdam).
- Research dilemmas and transdiagnostic action (Robert Schoevers, professor of psychiatry at the University of Groningen, head of psychiatry at the UMCG and director of the Summer School on Psychedelic Research).
The indisputable success of the second edition of the Summer School on Psychedelic Research is best put into words by the participants themselves:
- ‘I realise that I had forgotten what it felt like to be truly enthralled with subject matter in a formal learning environment.’
- ‘A top-notch summer school that exceeded all my expectations.’
- ‘This week was absolutely amazing; it was such a privilege to connect with like-minded people. It really felt like a psychedelic experience!’
Want to attend the 2024 edition of the Summer School on Psychedelic Research? Follow the Summer School Instagram profile or keep an eye on the Summer School website for more information, which will be provided early next year. Of course, we will also keep you updated through the Open Minded newsletter.
When asked whether applicants should have prior knowledge on psychedelics, Breeksema says ‘You really don’t have to be an expert, but during the Summer School, you will definitely become one! There is so much to be learned.’
Photo’s by Martin Spijker and Jeroen Neef