An interview with Nick Milne, PhD, CSO of Octarine

Written by Jagoda Mackowiak for the MIND Blog.

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Jagoda: Welcome, Nick. Thank you so much for coming! In your lab at The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, you have mainly worked on projects related to sustainability. What made you interested in psilocybin?

Nick: The research center where I worked is the Center for Biosustainability — A core focus of the center is to develop bio-based processes to replace non-renewable synthetic chemistry. I have always been interested in mental health, and particularly how we treat mental health, or rather how badly we treat mental health today. …

A Romp Through the Use of Psychoactive Mushrooms in Ancient Culture, Contemporary Research, and Future Therapy

Written by Camelia Manaila for the MIND Blog.

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According to mycologist Paul Stamets, the presence of mushrooms is actually a direct index of a healthy and biodynamic ecosystem. Nevertheless, it is also well known that specifically some psilocybin species tend to grow in ‘disturbed’ habitats.

Have humans consumed neurotropic mushrooms since ancient pre-historic times, or is it a relatively newly developed practice? If the former is true, what role did these altered states of consciousness play in ancient human times? These questions are continuously debated amongst anthropologists, scientists, and ethnomycologists.

Fungi — Mushrooms — Magic Mushrooms?

Before delving into the discussion, it is important to understand the basics of mushroom anatomy, lifespan, and habitat. The term “mushroom” only refers to the fungus’s fruiting body, the one we can observe above-ground with the naked eye. Underneath the surface lies a network of so-called hyphae, long filaments branching of the mushroom body, collectively forming the fungus’s mycelium, which is needed for proliferation and nutrient uptake. Mycelium can be enormous: one of the largest ever found is a single Armillaria bulbosa that stretches across 15 hectares and weighs 10.000 kg. This particular fungus, which was found in the United States, is suspected to be about 1500 years old. …

Combining mindfulness practice and psychedelic therapy

Written by Selina Heuser for the MIND Blog.

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The mind is the friend
Of those who have control over it,
And the mind acts like an enemy
For those who do not control it.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter VI, The Yoga of Meditation

After being deprived of the scientific community’s attention for decades, psychedelic research is now experiencing a revival. Specifically, there has been an increase in studies on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances for treating mental disorders such as depression, addiction, cancer-related psychiatric distress, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But with the usefulness of psychedelics revealed, this research field is now faced with the next important questions. We know that psychedelic-assisted therapy can reduce symptoms, but how can patients sustain these improvements long term? …

Written by Professor Gerhard Gründer for the MIND Blog and the Mind and Brain Institute.

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In my recent blog post, I reported on the optimistic view that “digital phenotyping” with smartphone technology would improve psychiatric diagnosis and possibly even treatment. Building on this, I discussed general advancements towards including big data in psychiatry. Another important aspect of the digitization of psychiatry is the development of machine therapists in mental health care, working with artificial intelligence. …

Biohack or Placebo?

Written by Milena Marinković for the MIND Blog.

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Here’s a thought-provoking question: Would you rather take a high dose of LSD or psilocybin sporadically to dissolve the boundaries between yourself and the universe, or just a tiny amount regularly to become more creative and excel at intellectually demanding tasks? The latter option has recently garnered the attention of biohacking communities, where it is popularized as microdosing. At the recent Interdisciplinary Conference of Psychedelic Research (ICPR2020), researchers investigating microdosing practices and effects shared their findings and suggested that microdosing might not actually be the right tool for performance enhancement.

What’s Behind the Microdosing Trend?

The stimulant effects of low doses of LSD have been known since Albert Hofmann himself suggested it as an alternative to Ritalin. Today, microdosing enthusiasts may come to the practice with a far greater variety of motivations. One of their primary drivers is the promise that regularly using ‘’sub-threshold’’ (‘’won’t get you high’’) amounts of psychedelic substances — will enhance cognition and memory Indeed, members of online microdosing hubs (e.g. Reddit, TheThirdWave) enthusiastically report positive effects related to their cognitive performance and creativity. Scientists refer to these benefits collectively as nootropic effects. Others are more focused on the mental health and well-being benefits: users with depression and anxiety claim microdosing helps with their symptoms, and healthy users report it helps put them in a more positive mood. …

Brave New World?

Written by Professor Gerhard Gründer for the MIND Blog and the Mind and Brain Institute.

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Every day in the press, but also in the medical literature, the promises of “Big Data,” “Precision Medicine,” and “Machine Learning” for medicine can be found. These proclamations usually begin with sentences such as: “Mental health (including substance abuse) is the fifth greatest contributor to the global burden of disease, with an economic cost of $ 2.5 trillion in 2010, and expected to double by 2030.”

And then these articles point to the sheer endless possibilities for digitization in medicine. “Big Data” is praised as the solution to all problems in psychiatry: it would supposedly improve not only early detection of mental disorders, but also therapy. These promises sound heavenly: “The emerging field of ‘predictive analytics in mental health’ has recently generated tremendous interest with the bold promise to revolutionize clinical practice in psychiatry.” Does anyone really believe that? …

An Exploration of the Phenomenological Similarities Between Trauma and Mystical Experience

Written by Mackenzie Amara for the MIND Blog.

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“Cosmic love is absolutely ruthless and highly indifferent. It teaches its lessons whether you like them or not.” ~ John C. Lilly

Perhaps at first blush, there appears to be nothing phenomenologically similar about traumatic and mystical experiences. The former tend to range in scale from deeply upsetting to catastrophic, catalyze recurring suffering, and debilitate the experiencer for a lengthy amount of time. The latter are often assumed to be sunshine and rainbows, waves of bliss rippling out from a unified epicenter of which the experiencer also happens to be a part.

While I do not discount the truth of those experiences, or the reality that for many, trauma and mystical experience are two distinct threads and never the twain shall meet, this essay is a brief exploration of the opposite assertion: namely, that trauma and mystical experience are phenomenologically similar, if not identical. I do not mean to assert that all trauma is mystical, nor that a mystical experience is always traumatic; nor am I aiming to express the importance of a mystical experience in treating trauma (although there is mounting evidence supporting that claim). …

How can meaningful experiences give rise to lasting change?

Written by Jannis Ulke for the MIND Blog.

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“…I could see [my relationships] clearly almost as if for the first time. I had fresh insight into things. It was almost as if suddenly the scales dropped from my eyes, I could see things as they really are.”

We are witnessing a so-called Psychedelic Renaissance, with more and more studies showing the positive effects of psychedelic drugs for the treatment of a wide range of mental disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and addictions. Just a few doses of these compounds — and sometimes only one — can cause lasting psychological benefits. Great efforts have been made to understand the mechanisms behind their therapeutic effects. Recent research suggests that the efficacy of psychedelics depends on the intensity of certain subjective phenomena.Psychedelics commonly produce profound experiences through which people gain deep insights into their mental and social lives. …

The Promise and Peril of Digital Phenotyping

Written by Professor Gerhard Gründer for the MIND Blog and the Mind and Brain Institute.

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In 2017, Tom Insel, the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) published a brief “viewpoint” article with the title “Digital Phenotyping — Technology for a New Science of Behavior” in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Earlier in 2017, Insel left his former employer Alphabet (formerly Google) for the California-based Mindstrong Health, a company which, according to its website, is dedicated to “Transforming Brain Health: Better outcomes through measurement-based care.”

What exactly is “digital phenotyping”? …

Psychedelics connect our neurons and our brains; they connect us to each other and to the environment.

Written by Christoph Benner for the MIND Blog.

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‘This connection, it’s just a lovely feeling… this sense of connectedness, we are all interconnected.’

- Depressed patient after experiencing a therapeutic dose of psilocybin.

In the ever-accelerating world in which we live, many people feel increasingly lost and left behind. Despite omnipresent social media, rates of anxiety and depression have been rising for years. …


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