Neurobiology of Psychedelics - Implication for Mood Disorders

Franz Vollenweider, MD

Abstract: Recent advances in our understanding of the neurobiology of psychedelics such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin, and ketamine have led to renewed interest in the clinical potential of psychedelics in the treatment of various psychiatric disorders. Specifically, recent evidence from molecular, behavioral, and brain imaging studies demonstrate that psilocybin has the ability to enhance mood and to shift the processing of negative stimuli towards processing of positive stimuli in healthy human subjects. This presentation will review and discuss recent and ongoing neuroimaging studies (PET, fMRI, MRS, ERP) of the psychological and neuronal basis of psilocybin’s effect on emotion regulation in healthy human subjects, as well as its antidepressant potential in depressed patients. A better understanding of the putative rapid antidepressant mechanism of action of psilocybin may not only advance the development of more effective treatments for depression, but also lead to the identification of functional (bio)markers that may help to predict individual treatment responses and thus foster more specific personalized treatments.

Dr. Franz X. Vollenweider is currently Vice-Director of Research and Teaching and Director of the Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging Research Unit at the University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich East, and Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of Zurich. He is also the Director of Heffter Research Centre Zürich for Consciousness Studies (HRC-ZH), which he founded in 1998 as well as President of the Swiss Neuromatrix Foundation for the Study of Consciousness. His current research focuses on the investigation of the functional networks and transmitter dynamics underlying the experience of self, visual perception, cognitive and emotional processes in normal waking and psychedelic states, and on the dysfunctions of these processes in psychiatric disorders. Dr. Vollenweider has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers, and his research is supported by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Federal Health Office, the Heffter Research Institute, and multiple awards from the NARSAD and the Fetzer Research Institute. He has received the Achievement Award of the Swiss Society of Psychiatry (1990), the Heffter Research Institute Award (1997), the Götz Prize of the University of Zurich (2000), the British Association of Psychopharmacology Prize (2002), and the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Prize (1999, 2003, 2010).

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