“Each morning when we’d arrive at the police barricades, people would be standing there with pictures of their loved ones, asking us to look for them,” Susan Diehl says. “Hours later, after a hard shift when we were ready to get back on the shuttle bus, they were still there—waiting for word.”
Massachusetts General Hospital has established a new Center for Neuroscience of Psychedelics to better understand how psychedelics may be used to improve the treatment of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. The center is a collaboration between Mass General's Department of Psychiatry, the Department of Radiology’s Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and the Center for Genomic Medicine’s Chemical Neurobiology Laboratory.
Psychedelic drugs are commonly associated with altered states of consciousness in which users say they have felt mystical, spiritual or transpersonal experiences. The center’s mission is to understand how psychedelics enhance the brain’s capacity for change, to optimize current treatments and create new treatments for mental illness and to render the term “treatment resistant” obsolete.
Sharmin Ghaznavi, MD, PhD
In the last couple decades, the possibility of using psychedelics for treatment of psychiatric illness has seen a renaissance, and the evidence so far is compelling enough to warrant investigation of their potential and their effects on the brain.
Associate Director, Center for Neuroscience of Psychedelics
Initial research studies focus on how psilocybin—a naturally occurring psychedelic medicine produced by species of fungi—affects brain circuits in patients with treatment resistant depression. “The intellectual capital and unique scientific resources that came together at Mass General to pursue this question of how psychedelics might change the brain for therapeutic benefit, has already captured the interest of one of the most scientifically sophisticated companies in this space to initiate a collaboration to pursue novel treatments,” says Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, MD, psychiatrist-in-chief emeritus, who will oversee the center as its director.
In addition to Rosenbaum, center leadership includes Sharmin Ghaznavi, MD, PhD, associate director who will also direct the center’s cognitive neuroscience initiatives, Bruce Rosen, MD, PhD, scientific director of neuroimaging, Stephen J. Haggarty, PhD, scientific director of chemical neurobiology, and Franklin King, MD, director of education and therapist training.
Ghaznavi says, “In the last couple decades, the possibility of using psychedelics for treatment of psychiatric illness has seen a renaissance, and the evidence so far is compelling enough to warrant investigation of their potential and their effects on the brain. We are focused on understanding how psychedelics impact the brain, from neurons to networks, to bring about the kind of change that provides meaningful and sustained relief for our patients suffering with mental illness.”
The role of psychedelics in psychiatry has not been without its challenges. “Since the 1960s, psychedelics have experienced a backlash, despite years of research at that time suggesting they held immense promise in the treatment of various psychiatric conditions,” says King. “While they are not cure-alls, and the unique aspects of guided therapy using psychedelics—relying, as it does, on extensive psychological preparation, non-directive therapy during the drug session itself and integration following the session—will be novel to the vast majority of both clinicians and patients, education of public and mental health care providers is urgently needed to prepare for the anticipated FDA approvals in the coming years.”
- Aug | 20 | 2021
In 2020, Carr took up running to keep herself both physically and mentally active during the COVID-19 pandemic. She completed her first double digit run—10 miles—on Dec. 31. Six days later, after a routine checkup with her doctor, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Jul | 1 | 2021
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a group of students from Harvard Medical School—led by Dorothy Weiss Tolchin, MD, EdM, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Physical Medicine and...
- Jun | 18 | 2021
Two exceptional employees were honored with this year’s Ricardo Diaz Memorial Award during the celebration, recognizing the hard work, selflessness and compassion reflective of Diaz’s.
- Jun | 18 | 2021
The MGH Virtual Visits Team was honored with the 2020 Nathaniel Bowditch Prize for its quick and innovative work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Jun | 18 | 2021
Not even a global pandemic, with all its difficult diversions and delays, could stop the nurses of Ellison 9 from staying on track with a project timeline they had set before the COVID-19 outbreak.