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Berkeley Opens Its Mind to Psychedelics with New Research Centre SPONSOR: Red Light Holland $ $ $

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The University of California at Berkeley is getting the dirt on mushrooms.

The school announced on Monday that it will be launching the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics — an institute devoted to expanding and better understanding the effects hallucinogens have on the human brain, according to Marijuana Moment.

“There’s never been a better time to start a centre like this,” said neuroscientist David Presti, one of the founding members of the project. “The renewal of basic and clinical science with psychedelics has catalyzed interest among many people.”

Buoyed by an anonymous US$1.2-million donation, the centre will begin its research by looking at psilocybin — the hallucinogenic component of mushrooms that has received increased attention at other institutions recently for its ability to treat conditions previously thought untreatable.

“Some of these studies have produced striking results in cases that are otherwise resistant to more conventional medical treatment,” said Michael Silver, a neuroscientist and the director of the new centre. “This suggests that psychedelic compounds may offer new hope for people suffering from these disorders.”

Researchers are also working with the university’s graduate theological union to train students to be “facilitators” during psychedelic ceremonies with a focus on the “cultural, contemplative and spiritual care dimensions of psychedelics.”

Study at the centre will be geared toward understanding what happens in the human brain during a psychedelic experience. Researchers hope to gain insight into how visual hallucinations manifest themselves in the brain and the effect they have on a person’s identity, ability to cope with stress and even their social and political attitudes.

“Psychedelic medicines can open a doorway to seeing one’s psyche and connection with the world in new and helpful ways,” Presti said. “That’s been appreciated by shamanic traditions for thousands of years. Science is now exploring new ways to investigate this.”

Currently, psilocybin mushrooms are classified as a Schedule I drug by the FDA, the same category as heroin and cannabis. To be a Schedule I drug means the substance in question holds no medicinal value. As researchers find mushrooms have a positive effect on anxietytreatment-resistant depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder, that could change.

Like cannabis, psilocybin has a long track record of relative safety among recreational users, and it is not toxic. Unlike some drugs that treat anxiety and other mental conditions, psilocybin is not prone to dependence. But given its hallucinogenic effect, lawmakers may be reticent to allow distribution of the psychedelic drug without more restrictions.


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