FRONTIERS IN PSYCHEDELIC SCIENCE

This transdisciplinary seminar brings together experts from different fields such as neuroscience, psychology & psychotherapy, philosophy and consciousness research to advance the critical dialogue about recent developments and future directions in psychedelic research.

Public lectures by invited speakers will be complemented by plenary discussions.

This seminar is hosted by the Reconnect Foundation in collaboration with Studentisches Forum für Psychoanalyse at the University of Zurich.

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Psychedelic-assisted Psychotherapy in End of Life Existential Distress

Monday, May 25, CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19

Dr. med. Michael Ljuslin
Senior Physician, Department of Rehabilitation and Palliative Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals

In the past two decades, after extensive research about the possible harmful effects, clinical research on the potential therapeutic uses of classic hallucinogens has resumed, focusing mainly on conditions for which current recommended treatment have low efficacy or none. LSD and psilocybin assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of anxio-depression syndrome including fear of death in people suffering from terminal illnesses has shown results that appear very promising. This ­lecture aims to give an overview of the current research in end of life distress and theories ­underlying the putative therapeutic mechanisms of action, including pharmacological, ­psychological and spiritual aspects.

All public events outside the regular university curriculum scheduled to take place on the premises of UZH, have been canceled due to the corona pandemic.

The Paradox of Psychedelic Humanities

Monday, April 27, CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19

Prof. Dr. med. Dr. phil. Nicolas Langlitz
Chair, Department of Anthropology, The New School of Social Sciences, New York

For the most part, the revival of hallucinogen research has been confined to the medical sciences. In recent years, however, psychedelics have also become the focus of a growing body of humanities scholarship. But aren’t psychedelic humanities an oxymoron? If the job of the humanities is to open up alternative and maybe even mutually exclusive ways of looking at the world, their commitment to a polemic staging of possibilities would be at odds with a conception of the psychedelic experience as inherently unitive. Like all paradoxes, this one calls for resolution.

All public events outside the regular university curriculum scheduled to take place on the premises of UZH, have been canceled due to the corona pandemic.

Ayahuasca-Tourismus in Peru: der psychedelisch-entheogene Gebrauch und seine Folgen

Monday, March 16: CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19

Tom John Wolff
Diplom-Psychologe, Psychotherapeut und Suchttherapeut, externer Doktorand der Universität Bremen

Der Vortrag wirft einen Blick auf die westlichen Erwartungen an Ayahuasca und deren Einflüsse auf lokale mestizische Gebrauchspraktiken im oberen Amazonasgebiet. Es werden dabei Motivationen und Heilungstheorien dargestellt und Einblicke in die Phänomenologie des Erlebens im Ayahuasca-Zustand besprochen.

All public events outside the regular university curriculum scheduled to take place on the premises of UZH, have been canceled due to the corona pandemic.

Trauma im Erleben des Individuums und der Gesellschaft: Welche Interaktionen gibt es und was bedeutet dies in Bezug auf die Anwendung der psychedelischen Erfahrung in der Traumatherapie?

Monday, January 20, 18:30 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOL-F-118

Dr. med. Ansgar Rougemont-Bücking
Psychiater, EMDR Therapeut, Universität Fribourg

Dieser Vortrag gibt einen Überblick über die wichtigsten Veränderungen in der Neurobiologie des Gehirns und im Bindungserleben einer Person, die unter einer Traumafolgestörung leidet. Eine besondere Bedeutung hat hierbei das Phänomen der traumatischen Dissoziation; diese findet sich nicht nur auf individueller Ebene, sondern auch auf der Ebene der Gesellschaft. Vor diesem Verständnis kann die psychedelische Erfahrung als ein Werkzeug zur Erzeugung von «Co-consciousness» verstanden werden, durch das die traumatische Dissoziation mithilfe eines holistischen Bewusstwerdens integriert werden kann. Hierbei ist es wichtig, darauf hinzuweisen, dass Integration ein fortlaufender dynamischer Prozess ist, der sowohl im Erleben des Individuums als auch im Erleben des Kollektivs stattfindet. Aus diesem Grund können präventive oder therapeutische Massnahmen nur im Zusammenspiel zwischen individuellen und gesellschaftlichen Prozessen erfolgreich sein. Die psychedelische Bewegung in Forschung und Medizin muss daher ein besonderes Augenmerk auf diese wechselseitigen Beeinflussungen legen. Dies gerade auch dann, wenn es darum geht zu betrachten, in welcher Form die psychedelische Erfahrung entweder als Agens oder als Objekt von transformativen Prozessen Gestalt annehmen kann.

Ansgar Rougemont-Bücking, Dr. med., ist Psychiater, EMDR Therapeut, Spezialist für Suchterkrankungen und Forscher im Bereich der stressbedingten psychiatrischen Störungen. Er arbeitet in seiner Praxis in Vevey, sowie an der Universität Freiburg (Schweiz), wo er ein Forschungsprojekt zur Erfassung der neurophysiologischen Reaktivität bei Personen, die unter berufsbedingtem Stress leiden, durchführt.

Psychedelic Science - Between Personal Growth, Autonomy, and (Over-) Medicalization

Monday, November 25, 18:30 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KO2-F-150 (PLEASE NOTE DIFFERENT LECTURE HALL)

Dr. Larissa J. Maier
Postdoc at the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

The resurgence of interest in psychedelic substances for mental health and substance use disorder treatment in recent years has opened the doors for dialogues related to potential benefits and harms. The Global Drug Survey 2019 has shown that people who had previously used psychedelic substances were more likely to consider these substances to assist psychotherapy when compared to those without such an experience. A low dose of LSD or psilocybin was the preferred choice when offered alongside other substances and different doses. While mental health is the gateway to psychedelic medicine, recreational use of psychedelic substances to seek altered states of mind that may or may not be associated with spirituality and personal growth is still the most prevalent form of use as of today. In the U.S., several cities have launched educational campaigns such as Decriminalize Nature that aim to decriminalize entheogenic plants and to restore humans' root connection to nature to improve health and well-being. This presentation will discuss how these developments fit within the broader context of drug policy reform and how future policies should conceptualize safe spaces for the use of psychedelic substances both in recreational and therapeutic settings. Finally, a critical reflection will assess how to prevent that (over-)medicalization negatively impacts the autonomy of marginalized communities.

Larissa Maier received her Ph.D. from the University of Zurich at the Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction (ISGF). In 2017, she was appointed as a consultant in Drug Use Epidemiology at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna. Larissa is a member of the Core Research Team of Global Drug Survey (GDS) aiming to make drug use safer, regardless of the legal status of the drug. She is currently leading the Science Policy Group (SPG) and the Psychedelic and Entheogen Academic Council (PEAC) at UCSF and is a member of the U.S. National Science Policy Network (NSPN). In addition, she serves on several committees to facilitate international relations, diversity, and early career networks at the European Society of Prevention Research (EUSPR), the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP), the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP), the Society for Prevention Research (SPR), and the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD).

Translating REBUS: Implications and new evidence of belief updating under psychedelics

Monday, October 28, 18:30 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOL-F-118

Hannes Kettner, M.Res
Neuropsychologist, Imperial College London

The recently proposed 'Relaxed beliefs under psychedelics' (REBUS) model puts forth a unified mechanistic account of how psychedelics may affect the human mind and brain by interpreting various lines of neurocognitive and psychological findings through the topical theory of the brain as a hierarchical predictive coding machine. In this talk, I will present data related to beliefs and belief stability collected in the context of three different observational naturalistic studies over the past 3.5 years. These will include results showing changes in explicit global belief structures (specifically, beliefs pertaining to the nature of reality, consciousness, concepts such as free will, and non-naturalistic 'magical' beliefs), psychological constructs related to belief stability, and preliminary evidence suggesting improved Bayesian belief updating in individuals under the influence of a psychedelic. Finally, I will suggest a framework which aims to plausibly put in relationship the 'epistemic shock' accompanying acute destabilisation of high-level beliefs and long-term psychological outcomes, touching also upon the concepts of psychedelic integration and 'meaning-making'.

Hannes Kettner has studied biosciences, philosophy, and psychology in Heidelberg and holds a MSc in Neuropsychology from Maastricht University. He is currently a member of the Center for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London. His work focuses on how cognitive and mental health research can be integrated into and informed by naturalistic settings of psychedelic and plant medicine use.

Psychedelic Plant Teachers

Monday, May 13, 18:30 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOH-B-10 (PLEASE NOTE DIFFERENT LECTURE HALL)

Jeremy Narby, PhD
Anthropologist and Author

An anthropologist tries to reconcile science and Amazonian plant knowledge, drawing concepts from both sides. Plants like ayahuasca and tobacco can act both as “psychedelics” , meaning mind-revealing, and as “teachers", in that they allow knowledge to be gained. But working with plant teachers is tricky, and has ups and downs. Beacuse they are mind-revealing, the experience one can have after ingesting them depends on who one is. Ultimately, when working with plant teachers, going back and forth between systems of knowledge is a slow process that can be rewarding, but that also has its perils.

Die analytische Psychologie nach C.G. Jung und die Phänomenologie von Ayahuasca-Erfahrungen: Unbewusste und affektive Dynamiken

Monday, March 4, 18:30 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOL-F-118

Dr. med. Heiner Dörfler
Psychiater und Ayahuasca-Forscher

Der Schweizer Psychiater Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) prägte mit seinen Begriffen, Ideen und Theorien die populärwissenschaftliche Psychologie des 20. Jahrhunderts, in der akademischen Welt blieb er jedoch oft umstritten. Wesentlich waren für Jung spirituelle und transzendente Dimensionen des Menschen, er suchte nach Tiefe und Sinnerfahrungen in der menschlichen Seele. Mit seinem Werk wirkte er in die Bereiche von Religionspsychologie, Philosophie, Astrologie und Ethnologie hinein. Die Innenschau war für Jung der Schlüssel zu Selbsterkenntnis und Individuation. Im psychotherapeutische Prozess ging es für Jung darum, sich mit Komplexepisoden, unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der affektiven Ebenen, auseinanderzusetzen. In einem schöpferischen Prozess mit dem Einbezug von Träumen und inneren Bildern sollte im Analysanden ein Entwicklungs- und Wandlungsprozess angestossen werden.

Ayahuasca ist ein traditioneller psychotroper Tee aus dem Amazonasgebiet, der in den letzten Jahren ein zunehmendes wissenschaftliches Interesse erweckt. Trinkende berichten von Ayahuasca als Werkzeug, unentdeckte Gebiete des menschlichen Geistes zu erforschen. Unter der Wirkung von Ayahuasca kommt es zu einem breiten Spektrum psychischer und physischer Phänomene, darunter beispielsweise das Wiedererleben autobiografischer Erinnerungen, das intensive Fühlen körperlicher Sensationen, oder auch transpersonale und übersinnliche Erfahrungen. Auch können unangenehme, karthatische Prozesse durchlebt werden, welche in Jungs Worten als Begegnungen und Arbeit mit dem eigenen Schatten beschrieben werden können. In diesem Vortrag möchte sich der Referent mit Parallelen in Jungs Konzepten und der Phänomenologie von Ayahuasca-Erfahrungen auseinandersetzen.

New methods to investigate the subjective effects of psychoactive drugs

Monday, December 17, 18:15 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOL-H-312 (PLEASE NOTE DIFFERENT LECTURE HALL)

Raphaël Millière, PhD Candidate
Department of Philosophy, University of Oxford

In this talk, I will suggest that self-report questionnaires traditionally used to assess the subjective effects of psychoactive drugs have important limitations, and that we should investigate complementary methods to assess those effects more reliably. I will present two methods that I have used over the past two years: (a) the use of post-hoc micro-phenomenological interviews in experimental settings, and (b) the use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms to map out the subjective effects of drugs from large corpora of narrative reports. I will illustrate the respective strengths of these two methods by discussing the preliminary results of a new neuroimaging study of DMT at Imperial College London in which I have performed micro-phenomenological interviews with participants, and the preliminary results of an ongoing quantitative analysis of more than 15,000 ‘trip reports’ from Erowid.org using NLP. Finally, I will discuss how these methods can enrich our understanding of the complex effects of certain drugs, focusing on the example of drug-induced ego dissolution.