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 Psychedelic Research & Therapy Development group at the University of Zurich and the Reconnect Foundation.

To receive updates, subscribe for our newsletter.


Ästhetische Aufmerksamkeit und die psychedelische Erfahrung

Monday, December 6, 2021, 18:15 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOL-F-118

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Susanne Schmetkamp
SNSF PRIMA Research Group Leader „Aesthetics and Ethics of Attention“, University of Fribourg

Wie verhält sich unsere Aufmerksamkeit in psychedelischen Erfahrungen? In dem philosophischen Vortrag wird es um einen Modus von Aufmerksamkeit gehen, der sich von der Standard-Form einer selektierenden, handlungsorientierten Aufmerksamkeit (attention) dahingehend unterscheidet, dass er zweckfrei statt instrumentell, weit gestreut statt eng fokussiert ist und mit einer ästhetisch und ethisch wertvollen Perspektivenänderung einhergeht. Anhand einer Konzeption solch von mir als ästhetischer Aufmerksamkeit bezeichneten Weise des Aufmerksamseins (attentiveness) entwickele ich eine Phänomenologie psychedelischer Erfahrungen, welche zwar nicht nur für diese vorbehalten ist, aber dort auf intensive, immersive und verdichtete Art realisiert wird. Als ästhetisch bezeichne ich sie deshalb, nicht nur weil diese Aufmerksamkeit perzeptive und sensuelle Modifikationen, Verschiebungen und Neubetrachtungen involviert, sondern auch weil sie nicht auf ein Ziel oder eine konkrete Aufgabe zweckhaft ausgerichtet ist. Im Gegenteil: sie kann sich nur einstellen, wenn von Zwecken losgelassen und eine akzeptierende Hinwendung zu dem, was gegenwärtig erscheint, ausgeführt wird. Dass Aufmerksamkeit sich durch einen Dualismus von passiv-aktiver Gestaltung kennzeichnet (Waldenfels), wird dabei wichtig sein. Ferner wird auch die Rolle der Empathie als unser Vermögen, Perspektiven einzunehmen, angesprochen werden mit der These, dass eine offene und sensitive Aufmerksamkeit (open mindedness) eine Voraussetzung ist, eine auch auf andere (Menschen, Lebewesen, Natur) orientierte Perspektivenveränderung zu ermöglichen. Ziel des Vortrags ist es, zu einer phänomenologisch reichhaltigen und zugleich analytisch klaren Beschreibung solcher Zustände beizutragen und eine Brücke zu schlagen zu anderen nicht-psychedelischen Erfahrungen, um eine Vielfalt von Wegen der Bewusstseinserweiterung insgesamt aufzuzeigen.

Die Philosophin Dr. Susanne Schmetkamp ist Assistenz-Professorin an der Universität Fribourg. Sie leitet dort eine SNF-Forschungsgruppe zu «Aesthetics and Ethics of Attention». Sie hat unter anderem in Basel, Berlin, Weimar, Siegen, Konstanz, St. Gallen gearbeitet. Ihre Themenschwerpunkte sind Empathie, Perspektivität, Aufmerksamkeit, ästhetische Erfahrungen, Respekt, Anerkennung und Liebe. Zuletzt ist von ihr erschienen: «Theorien der Empathie – Zur Einführung» (Junius, 2019) sowie «Understanding A.I. - Can and Should we Empathize with Robots?» (Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 2020). Sie arbeitet auch als freie Autorin und Moderatorin und gehört zum Vorstand der Zürcher «Gesellschaft zur Erweiterung des Bewusstseins» (GEB). Sie lebt mit ihrer Familie in Zürich. Mehr Infos:
https://www.susanneschmetkamp.com

Please note: In line with the current regulations of the BAG, a certificate (Covid-19) is required for public events at the University of Zurich.

Psychedelic world-making. What psychedelics can teach us about cognition and perception. An enactive cognitive science perspective in comparison with buddhist philosophy

Monday, November 8, 2021, 18:15 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOL-F-118

Daniel Meling, MSc, cand. PhD
Psychedelic Research and Therapy Development, University of Zurich


In recent years and due to their potential beneficial effects on mental health, psychedelics have received growing interest from science and society. Especially the altering effects of psychedelics on perception and cognition have brought forth a variety of narratives that integrate psychedelic experiences into our day-to-day world views and self-images. This talk will, first, present a variety of common views on psychedelics: How are psychedelic experiences integrated into some currently dominant cultural and scientific narratives? Is a psychedelic experience created by the brain, by the molecule, by something else, by none of those? Does a psychedelic experience show the world in a distorted illusionary way? Second, I will argue that one most promising view on psychedelic experiences is provided by the enactive approach in cognitive science and by a certain style of Buddhist philosophy called the Madhyamika view. Accordingly, this perspective is illustrated and applied to psychedelic experiences: What does the psychedelic experience valuably illustrate from an enactive and Buddhist Madhyamika perspective? What do psychedelics demonstrate about the constitution of reality and perception? Third and finally, this talk will conclude with closing remarks on the potential and limitations of psychedelics for correcting habitual but maladaptive worldviews. In this vein, psychedelics are compared with meditative practices: What are commonalities, differences, and synergies between meditation and psychedelics? With this, I hope to provoke an inspiring conversation on a variety of topics around potential benefits and risks not only of psychedelic substances but of the respective worldviews for integrating psychedelic experiences into daily life.

Daniel Meling is a cognitive scientist and experience researcher. He obtained a joint master’s degree in cognitive science (University of Vienna and University of Ljubljana) and specialized in enactive theory and empirical phenomenological methods, including micro-phenomenology and neurophenomenology. His current work focuses on the phenomenology of transformative experiences induced through meditation and psychedelics.


Please note: In line with the current regulations of the BAG, a certificate (Covid-19) is required for public events at the University of Zurich.

Neural emotion- and self-processing with psychedelics

Monday, October 4, 2021, 18:30 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOL-F-118

Prof. Uwe Herwig
Medical Director at the Center for Psychiatry Reichenau, Germany

The presentation focuses on neural correlates of emotion- and self-regulation in healthy subjects and in people with mental disorders under the influence of psychedelics. In this field of research, particularly neuroimaging provided important results. Hereby, modulations of for instance amygdala activity, in brain regions of self-reference, and of the default mode network were described during and after intake of Psilocybin, LSD, Ayahuasca and MDMA. Possible modes of integral neuro-psychotherapeutic effects will be derived.

Prof. Uwe Herwig is Medical Director at the Center for Psychiatry Reichenau, academic hospital of the University of Konstanz, Germany. He founded and headed for years the research group for emotion regulation at the University Hospital for Psychiatry Zurich, also with contact to the research with psychedelic substances. He obtained doctoral degrees from the Universities of Göttingen and ETH Zurich, and he teaches at the Universities of Konstanz, Ulm and Zurich.

Please note: In line with the current regulations of the BAG, a certificate (Covid-19) is required for public events at the University of Zurich.

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.

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.

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.

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.