The University of California Berkeley Center for Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) is an interdisciplinary organization that employs research, training, and public education to advance understanding of psychedelics’ effects and therapeutic potential.
Psychedelic Science Review covered BCSP’s September 2020 launch, which was enabled by an anonymous $1.25 million donation. Directed by neuroscientist Michael Silver, BCSP’s team comprises California Bay Area academics, researchers, and clinicians with expertise spanning topics including addiction, emotional science, biology, neuroscience, psychiatry, spirituality, and consciousness.
BCSP’s website states that its research initiative is focused on “investigat[ing] short- and long-term effects of psychedelics on human cognition, perception…emotion,” and identity. Specifically, researchers will study the effects of high psychedelic doses on “emotion, stress regulation, and inflammation” and the effects of low doses on “neurobiological, perceptual, and cognitive aspects of the psychedelic experience, including creativity, flexibility, and top-down and bottom-up sensory processing.” The center will also be exploring mystical-type experiences and spiritual implications.
BCSP will help prepare facilitators to safely, effectively, and ethically guide psychedelic experiences. According to its website, BCSP’s work will be informed by insights from “a longitudinal support program” designed for its healthy clinical study participants. These volunteers will be recruited from existing psychedelic facilitator training programs, given the value of the first-hand experience among trip guides. In partnership with the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, BCSP will also create an “immersive learning program for religious professionals.” Developed by BCSP team member Celina De Leon, this program will employ a spiritual care framework and honor indigenous wisdom around psychedelic use.
Led by renowned journalist Michael Pollan, BCSP’s public education program aims to be a trusted, authoritative source for evidence-based psychedelic research and policy. Given psychedelics’ controversial history and the rapid publication of research in the current psychedelic renaissance, the program seeks to mitigate the “significant risk of public misunderstanding” of these substances with clear, unbiased, and accessible information.
The Center’s website will feature cutting-edge psychedelic research and news, roundtable discussions with researchers and policymakers, a regular podcast on psychedelic science, and more.
In a UC Berkeley news release, Dr. Silver stated, “This is a pivotal time in history for a discussion about psychedelics and under what circumstances they should be used…This has obviously been a very polarizing topic, but I think people’s minds are changing.”
BCSP members have pledged to uphold the foundational principles of open science and open praxis for work with psychedelics. The principles include transparency in research processes and results and a commitment to prioritizing the common good above private gain.