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UC Berkeley Unveils Center for Science of Psychedelics

September 28, 2020

The University of California, Berkeley announced that it has opened a center for psychedelic science and public education on its campus.

The UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics, which was developed with $1.25 million in seed funding from an anonymous donor, will investigate cognition, perception and emotion, as well as their biological bases in the brain, through the use of psychedelics. Initial studies will include the use of psilocybin.

“We’re really interested in what psychedelics can teach us about consciousness, perception, creativity and learning,” center co-founder Michael Pollan, author of How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence, said in a news release announcing the program. ““Psychedelics have a particular value later in life, because that is when you are most stuck in your patterns. They give you the ability to shake them loose.”

Michael Silver, professor in UC Berkeley’s School of Optometry and its Helen Willis Neuroscience Institute, will serve as the center’s director. Silver said in the news release that the center will aim to build on ongoing clinical studies taking place at Johns Hopkins University and Imperial College London that are integrating psilocybin and other psychedelic compounds into psychotherapy. The UC Berkeley Center will study brain mechanisms behind the efficacy of psychedelic compounds, as well as the ability of the efficacy of the compounds in improving cognitive flexibility, altering visual perception, engendering feelings of awe, and changing brain activity patterns.

The UC Berkeley Center will also collaborate with the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of religious schools and theological institutes in the Bay Area, to develop a learning program on psychedelics and spirituality. The idea for the program is to eventually train facilitators in various dimensions of psychedelics for work with UC Berkeley on research studies.

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