UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics Launches Online Course on Psychedelics and the Mind

The UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) is proud to announce the launch of its new online course, Psychedelics and the Mind: Deepening Understanding of the Science, History, and Culture of Psychedelic Substances.” The course, now available for free on edX, is the first globally-accessible comprehensive deep dive into psychedelics from the world’s foremost public university, on behalf of BCSP, a leading multi-disciplinary psychedelics research organization.

Conceptualized and delivered by Professor David Presti, a neurobiologist, psychologist, and faculty member of the BCSP, the course draws from Presti’s long-running and popular class on drugs and the brain, which has been taught at UC Berkeley for over 25 years. Now this material is being offered to all learners worldwide, at a time when debates on psychedelics permeate public discourse and increasing numbers of people are actively seeking trustworthy information about these powerful substances. 

Psychedelics and the Mind steers clear of both hype and stigma around psychedelics by focusing on science-based evidence and engaging learners in nuanced thinking on contemporary debates. The eight available modules cover a wide range of topics, including the history of psychedelics, foundational concepts in the neurobiology of psychedelics, different substances and their effects on the brain, such as psilocybin, LSD, sacred cacti, and mescaline, MDMA, DMT and ayahuasca, and ketamine, as well as potential therapeutic applications, Indigenous traditions and practices, and the risks and potential benefits associated with their use.

The modules are brought to life by Emmy-award-winning producer Nicole Vinnola and are designed and tailored to engage an online audience beyond standard recorded lectures. Modules couple university-level knowledge of the science of psychedelics with contemplative conversations. Interviews feature a diverse range of expert guest speakers in medicine, journalism, literature, science, Indigenous traditions, and policy, offering learners multilayered perspectives on the complexity of the field and spotlighting the many still unanswered questions related to psychedelics.

We took our time on the facts so learners will understand what psychedelics are, how they work in the brain — as well as the cultural intersections, ancient and modern, that they bring.

Nicole Vinnola of Nezera Films

Interviews with Presti range from Michael Pollan discussing the so-called “psychedelic renaissance” to Jennifer Mitchell on MDMA entering the psychiatric field, to Susana Bustos speaking on ways of relating to DMT plants, to Forrest Tahdooahnippah on the history of peyote, the Native American Church and Federal Government policies.

I am excited to bring ‘Psychedelics and the Mind’ online so everyone seeking credible information and dogma-free discourse on visionary substances can now access the facts and be informed – for free.

Professor David Presti

Whether in connection with mental health treatments, the pursuit of general wellness, or research in basic science, psychedelics have become part of contemporary mainstream public discourse. Launching ‘Psychedelics and the Mind’ is an essential milestone for the BCSP’s mission to deliver accessible, science-based, and culturally-informed public education that also fosters nuanced debates and understandings of psychedelic substances. 

The BCSP’s free course is launching at a time when its inaugural UC Berkeley Psychedelics Survey found that almost half (47 percent) of US registered voters had heard something about psychedelics recently. Of this group, 48 percent said they had heard about psychedelics’ use for mental health treatments. Over half (52 percent) reported a ‘first-degree’ connection to psychedelic use – that either they or someone close to them has used a psychedelic.

“The launch of this new course is a huge milestone for our public education mission” said BCSP Executive Director Imran Khan. “‘Psychedelics and the Mind’ is incredibly timely; the growing public, political and professional interest in psychedelics needs to be met with serious, fact-based content, and we’re delighted to offer this course to a global audience now.”

The course is available online and is accessible to anyone interested in fact-based learning on psychedelics and their effects on the brain and mind. 

“Psychedelics and the Mind” was developed with generous support from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation. 

Learn more on September 5 with co-founder Michael Pollan, professor David Presti, ground-breaking Johns Hopkins professor Gül Dölen, award-winning producer of ‘Psychedelics and the Mind’ Nicole Vinnola, hosted by BCSP executive director Imran Khan.

About UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics

The UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) is an academic center focused on improving health and well-being for all through culturally informed psychedelic research; psychedelic facilitation training for religious, spiritual-care, and health-care professionals; and accessible, accurate, and reliable public education.

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