News Release

LSD and magic mushrooms could treat brain disorders without causing hallucinogenic experiences

Investigators present fascinating research on the therapeutic potential of drugs traditionally used for recreational purposes

Meeting Announcement

Federation of European Neuroscience Societies

 July 6, 2022 – Paris, France: Psychedelics are a type of drug that are known to cause hallucinations or modify what we experience through our senses like sight and sound. While some can be found in natural substances like plants or mushrooms, others are produced chemically. Now, researchers are investigating what they might be able to do for people living with brain disorders like depression and anxiety.

On July 10 from 9:45-11:00 am, the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) will bring together experts to present work on this riveting topic at the annual FENS Forum hosted in in Paris this year.

Drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms), are frequently used recreationally. Others like peyote may even be used in spiritual ceremonies. The allure of these types of drugs lies in their ability to create mind-altering and often highly emotional experiences.

Our history with these types of drugs goes back a long time and though they were beginning to be tested for medical purposes in the 1950s and 60s, regulatory crackdowns and ethical issues with many of the studies being done at that time put a swift halt to their use.

Today, psychedelics are slowly making their way back to the research lab. Though these types of drugs may have strong effects on our emotions and perceptions, toxicity-wise, they are quite safe and have not been shown to be addictive. While recent studies have shown that they could produce effects that help fight anxiety and depression, their intense perceptual effects make it complicated to use them as treatments. Luckily, neuroscience experts have begun looking at ways around this.

This unique symposium at the  FENS 2022 Forum will focus on some of the beneficial effects that psychedelics can have for certain brain disorder while mitigating their mind-altering effects.

Dr. Kim Kuypers from Maastricht University will discuss innovative approaches to a therapeutic technique called psychedelic microdosing where small doses of LSD or psilocybin are taken repeatedly for several weeks to gain cognitive, psychological, emotional, and health benefits. The quantities taken are so small that no psychedelic effect is perceived by the patient.

Dr. Scott Thompson from The University of Maryland School of Medicine points to the need for more basic research to better understand how psychedelic drugs act on the brain and how they could be modified to produce only desired effects. Him and his team have already been able to show that psilocybin can produce its different effects through separate mechanisms. In mice, they were able to block a specific receptor in the brain responsible for turning on the drug’s psychedelic effects. Using a model of depression, they further showed that “depressed” mice treated with psilocybin benefitted from the treatment since they regained healthy behaviours even while the mechanism responsible for psychedelic effects was blocked.

Similarly, Dr. Lindsay Cameron from Stanford University, will speak to how hallucinogenic and therapeutic effects of these types of drugs can be decoupled. This is playing an essential role in the development of non-hallucinogenic versions of psychedelic drugs that could be harnessed solely for their therapeutic value.

Finally, Rafael Moliner, a graduate student at the University of Helsinki, will discuss the role that psychedelics may have on brain plasticity, an important topic since some brain disorders like depression have been associated with decreased neuroplascity and rigid thought patterns.

The FENS Forum features a high-quality scientific programme covering all aspects of neuroscience, from basic to translational research. Over the course of five days, attendees will have unprecedented access to a range of symposia, technical workshops, plenary and special lectures like these as well as poster sessions and more!

FENS and the Société des Neurosciences are eager to welcome the neuroscience community to attend Europe's largest international neuroscience meeting on 9-13 July 2022 in Paris, France.

Press passes are still available.

About FENS

FENS is the main organisation for neuroscience in Europe. FENS currently represents 44 European national and single discipline neuroscience societies across 33 European countries and over 21,000 member scientists. FENS promotes neuroscience research to policy-makers, funding bodies and the general public, both regionally and internationally. FENS promotes excellence in neuroscience research and facilitates exchanges and networking between neuroscientists within the European Research Area and beyond.


Media contact before and during the Forum

FENS Forum Press Officer

Michelle Wilson-André

+34 7 68 86 55 47


FENS Contact      

FENS Communications Team

+32 2 545 04 06


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