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.

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Psychedelic Innovations and the Crisis of Psychopharmacology

Monday, May 23, 2022, 18:15 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOL-F-118

Prof. Nicolas Langlitz PhD
Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research in New York

In the 2010s, psychopharmacological research and development experienced a crisis: since no genuinely new drugs for the treatment of mental illness had been successfully developed for decades, major pharmaceutical corporations decided to disinvest their neuropsychopharmacology departments. At the same time, however, one branch of psychopharmacology began to boom. The FDA declared psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy a breakthrough therapy and hundreds of start-up companies began to compete for this potentially emerging health care market. The article looks at the case of psychedelic research to examine three different responses to the innovation crisis in psychopharmacology: (1) the resumption of pharmacopsychotherapy as a half-century old but previously marginalized and discontinued practice; (2) the continuation of self-experimentation as a simultaneously repressed and revitalized method of drug development; (3) computational drug design as a cutting-edge approach currently used to create non-psychedelic psychedelics that reduce psychiatric symptoms without any mind-altering effects. These responses point to conflicting imaginaries of innovation that envisage the future of psychopharmacology and thereby provide different diagnoses of its current predicament.

Phenomenological Methods in Neuroscience and Consciousness Research

Thursday, April 28, 2022, 18:30 - 20:30, University of Zurich, KOH-B-10 (PLEASE NOTE DIFFERENT LECTURE HALL)

Prof. Thomas Metzinger and Prof. Claire Petitmengin

https://www.psychology.uzh.ch/en/areas/nec/kogneuro/neuro-pheno-2022.html

Enaction as a lived experience – towards a radical neuro-phenomenology
The founding idea of neurophenomenology is that in order to progress in the understanding of the human mind, it is indispensable to integrate a disciplined study of human experience in cognitive neuroscience, an integration which is also presented as a methodological remedy for the “hard problem” of consciousness.

In this talk I will distinguish two interpretations and implementations of neurophenomenology: a light or “mild” neurophenomenology, which aims at building correlations between first-person descriptions and neural recordings, and tries to evaluate the validity of first-person descriptions through objective criteria; and a deep or radical neurophenomenology, which aims at investigating the process of co-constitution of the subjective and the objective poles - that Francisco Varela called "enaction", within lived experience, and tries to evaluate first-person descriptions through processual criteria. I will argue that while mild neurophenomenology does not solve the hard problem, radical neurophenomenology solves it by dissolving it.

Claire Petitmengin is currently Professor Emerita in Philosophy at the Institut Mines-Télécom and member of the Archives Husserl, Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Her research focuses on the usually unrecognized dynamics of lived experience and “micro-phenomenological” methods enabling us to become aware of it and highlight its essential structures. She studies the epistemological conditions of these methods, as well as their educational, therapeutic, artistic and contemplative applications. She currently devotes herself to exploring the links between the ecological crisis and our blindness to our lived experience. She has written numerous scientific articles and two books: L’expérience intuitive, and Le chemin du milieu: Introduction à la vacuité dans la pensée bouddhiste indienne. She also edited Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela, which commemorates the tenth anniversary of the publication of The View from Within, wherein Francisco Varela designed the foundations of a research program on lived experience.
http://www.clairepetitmengin.fr/
http://www.microphenomenology.com/

The Puzzle of "Pure" Consciousness – Minimal Phenomenal Experience: An Introduction into a new Research Initiative
This talk will give an introduction into a new approach to consciousness, trying out a “minimal model explanation”. Can the experience of “pure awareness” in meditation serve as a new empirical entry point? Phenomenological and psychometric data show that consciousness can exist without time-representation, without spatial self-location, without a weak first-person perspective, and without any form of egoic self-awareness. One important advantage of the minimal model approach is that it prevents unnecessary details from detracting us from a deeper understanding of our phenomenon of interest. What we call the “first-person perspective” is precisely one such detail: Consciousness is not a subjective phenomenon.

Thomas Metzinger
(*1958 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany) was Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz until 2019. He is past president of the German Cognitive Science Society (2005-2007) and of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (2009-2011). In the English language, he has edited two collections on consciousness (“Conscious Experience”, Imprint Academic, 1995; “Neural Correlates of Consciousness”, MIT Press, 2000) and published one major scientific monograph (“Being No One – The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity”, MIT Press, 2003). In 2009, he published a popular book, which addresses a wider audience and discusses the ethical, cultural and social consequences of consciousness research (“The Ego Tunnel – The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self”). Important recent Open Access collections (2015) are Open MIND at http://www.open-mind.net and Philosophy and Predictive Processing at http://predictive-mind.net (2017). In 2018 Metzinger has been appointed as a member of the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence.
https://www.philosophie-e.fb05.uni-mainz.de/institutes/theoretical-philosophy/thmetzinger/

Bursting the Psychedelic Hype Bubble

Monday, April 4, 2022, 18:15 - 19:45, University of Zurich, KOL-F-118

David B. Yaden PhD
Assistant Professor, Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

The popular portrayal of psychedelic science has created a hype bubble… and it’s about to pop. In this talk, I will predict how the hype bubble will burst – and argue that might be just what the field needs. As long as it doesn’t result in another era of prohibition against psychedelic research, this bursting could allow researchers to better communicate the more nuanced scientific evidence on psychedelics. Looking ahead, we can all help burst the hype bubble by deflating hype-y statements when we spot them in the wild across several domains (clinical, social, and philosophical).

David B. Yaden PhD, Assistant Professor, Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is the author of a forthcoming book with Oxford University Press, The Varieties of Spiritual Experience: 21st Century Research and Perspectives.

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

This lecture has been recorded, you may watch it here: Video-Recording

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


This lecture has been recorded, you may watch it here: Video-Recording

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.