Olson Lab

The Olson Lab, also known as the Olson Research Group, is housed at the University of California Davis. It was formed in 2015 by Dr. David Olson. The lab researches psychoplastogens, a class of substances that promote the growth and connectivity of cortical neurons, giving them the immense potential to treat a range of neuropsychiatric diseases. 

The Olson Lab has investigated the neurological impacts of psychedelic and psychedelic-adjacent substances including DMT (often used due to its common structural core among psychedelics and pharmaceuticals)1-5 ketamine,3,6 ibogaine,7 DOI,3 MDMA,3,8 LSD,3,7 and some of their analogs.

A 2018 study from the Lab demonstrated the plasticity-promoting effects of several compounds and was later covered by Psychedelic Science Review.

One of the Lab’s central goals is developing non-hallucinogenic versions of psychedelic psychoplastogens. In December 2020, they successfully identified and synthesized a non-psychoactive ibogaine analog, tabernanthalog, that retains ibogaine’s therapeutic qualities.7 Dr. Olson explained on an NPR segment, “We lopped off the parts of the structure that gave rise to a lot of the deleterious effects, and we left the part of the structure intact that still was able to have anti-addictive and antidepressant properties.” Tabernanthalog is the property of Delix Therapeutics, a startup that emerged from the Lab’s work. 

The Olson Lab has also demonstrated evidence of microdosing risks and benefits through a March 2019 study on rats microdosed with DMT1 and a January 2020 survey of anonymous psychedelic microdosers.9 The studies corroborated claims of microdosing’s anxiolytic and antidepressant effects, among other advantages, but revealed potential risks of neuronal atrophy and metabolic interference. Psychedelic Science Review ranked the latter study among the top 10 psychedelic studies of 2020.

  1. Dunlap LE, Azinfar A, Ly C, et al. Identification of Psychoplastogenic N,N‑Dimethylaminoisotryptamine (isoDMT) Analogues through Structure–Activity Relationship Studies. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 2020;63:1142-1155. doi:10.1021/acs.jmedchem.9b01404
  2. Cameron LP, Olson DE. Dark Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: N,N‑Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). ACS Chemical Neuroscience. 2018;9:2344-2357. doi:10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00101
  3. Ly C, Greb AC, Cameron LP, et al. Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity. Cell Reports (Cambridge). 2018;23:3170-3182. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2018.05.022
  4. Cameron LP, Benson CJ, Dunlap LE, Olson DE. Effects of N,N‑Dimethyltryptamine on Rat Behaviors Relevant to Anxiety and Depression. ACS Chemical Neuroscience. 2018;9:1582-1590. doi:10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00134
  5. Ly C, Greb AC, Vargas MV, et al. Transient Stimulation with Psychoplastogens is Sufficient to Initiate Neuronal Growth. ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science. Published online September 11, 2020. doi:10.1021/acsptsci.0c00065
  6. Cameron LP, Tombari RJ, Lu J, et al. A non-hallucinogenic psychedelic analogue with therapeutic potential. Nature. Published online December 09, 2020: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-3008-z
  7. Dunlap LE, Andrews AM, Olson DE. Dark Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. ACS Chemical Neuroscience. 2018;9:2408-2427. doi:10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00155
  8. Cameron LP, Benson CJ, DeFelice BC, Fiehn O, Olson DE. Chronic, Intermittent Microdoses of the Psychedelic N,N‑Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) Produce Positive Effects on Mood and Anxiety in Rodents. ACS Chemical Neuroscience. 2019;10:3261-3270. doi:10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00692
  9. Cameron LP, Nazarian A, Olson DE. Psychedelic Microdosing: Prevalence and Subjective Effects. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2020;52:1-10. doi:10.1080/02791072.2020.1718250