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Psychedelics: brain mechanisms

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Chair: Dr Graham Murray

Abstract: The talk takes a multi-level approach to the question of how psychedelics work in the brain. Key themes include:
  • the pharmacology of classic serotonergic psychedelics,
  • what this tells us about the function and evolutionary purpose of the serotonin 2A receptor,
  • the acute brain effects of psychedelics as determined by functional brain imaging,
  • the entropic brain hypothesis,
  • current evidence for psychedelic therapy,
  • the new ‘REBUS’ hierarchical predictive processing model of the action of psychedelics, and
  • how this maps on to the phenomenology of the acute psychedelic experience and therapeutic outcomes.

Biography: Dr Robin Carhart-Harris moved to Imperial College London in 2008 after obtaining a PhD in Psychopharmacology from the University of Bristol and an MA in Psychoanalysis from Brunel University. At Imperial, Robin has designed and completed human brain imaging studies with LSD , psilocybin, MDMA and DMT , a clinical trial of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, a double-blind randomised controlled trial comparing psilocybin with escitalopram for major depressive disorder and a multimodal imaging study in healthy volunteers receiving psilocybin for the first time. Robin founded the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London in April 2019, the first of its kind in the world. For more detailed, please visit:

This talk is part of the Department of Psychiatry & CPFT Thursday Lunchtime Seminar Series series.

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