What Can Psychedelics Teach Us About the Brain and Mind?

Join our special event to launch ‘Psychedelics and The Mind,’ a new online course with Professor David Presti, to find out.

composite image of David Presti, Gül Dolën, Imran Khan, Nicole Vinnola, and Michael Pollan

Free event – September 5 – 5pm PT

Conversations about psychedelics and their potential benefits are permeating public discourse. Research into powerful psychedelic substances is gaining momentum, and policy changes are occurring at a rapid pace. 

It’s vital that we develop a shared understanding of this increasingly important field. Which  substances are classed as psychedelics? Where do psychedelic substances come from, and how have they been used throughout history? How do they work in the brain? What are the contemporary debates on psychedelics today, in a field that asks questions of medicine,  spirituality, Indigeneity, counter-culture, neuroscience, psychology, law, capitalism, and more? And finally, why is it important to have accessible public education about psychedelics? 

Join the conversation with leading voices in the psychedelics field including best-selling author and BCSP co-founder Michael Pollan, course instructor and UC Berkeley Professor David Presti, ground-breaking Johns Hopkins Professor Gül Dölen, award-winning producer of our new course, Nicole Vinnola, and hosted by BCSP Executive Director Imran Khan

Rapid change across policy, research, business, and education, mean the public are seeking more information about psychedelics. The launch of Psychedelics and the Mind’ ensures that the global public will have access to free, culturally-informed, and evidence-based education that cuts through misinformation, stigma, and hype surrounding these powerful substances. We look forward to introducing the course and continued discourse on psychedelics. 

Sign up for ‘Psychedelics and the Mind’ free online course.


Michael Pollan

For more than thirty years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about where the human and natural worlds intersect: on our plates, farms and gardens, and our minds. He is the John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley and the author of eight books, including How to Change Your Mind, his 2018 account of the renaissance of scientific research into psychedelics. In July 2022, Netflix released a docu-series based on How to Change Your Mind, exploring the history and uses of psychedelic substances, including LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, and mescaline. Michael leads BCSP’s public-education program, the first effort from a public university to foster a well-informed, nuanced understanding of psychedelics.

As a journalist, author, professor, and co-founder of BCSP, Michael Pollan will share his insights on the changing landscape of the psychedelics field and why accessible public education is especially critical right now. 

David Presti

David Presti has taught neurobiology and psychology at UC Berkeley for over thirty years, with the history, psychological value, and known neurobiology of psychedelics as essential parts of his instructional curriculum. During that same decades-long period, he also worked to shift educational dialogue and public policy related to psychedelics. For over a decade, David worked in treating addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. He also teaches neuroscience and engages in conversations about science with Buddhist monastics in India, Bhutan, and Nepal. David sees BCSP as poised to contribute innovative transdisciplinary investigations related to psychedelics as probes of the nature of mind and to explore the nexus between physical science and spirituality.

As a neuroscientist and psychologist, David will unravel some of the fascinating neuroscience associated with psychedelic experiences, as well as how psychedelics may contribute to expanding the way mind is viewed in science and how such an expansion may contribute to shifts in behavior.

Gül Dölen is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The Dölen lab has discovered critical periods can be reopened with psychedelic drugs like MDMA (Nardou et al. Nature, 2019), LSD, psilocybin, ketamine, and ibogaine. Importantly, understanding psychedelics through this framework dramatically expands the scope of disorders that might benefit from adjunct therapy with psychedelics, an approach she has dubbed the PHATHOM project (Psychedelic Healing: Adjunct Therapy Harnessing Opened Malleability, http://www.phathomproject.org).

Gül Dölen as a leading molecular and cellular neuroscience researcher will enlighten us on the promising potential of psychedelics in treating mental health disorders. Learn about the latest scientific breakthroughs and the therapeutic benefits of these substances, opening up new avenues for mental health care.

Nicole Vinnola

Nicole Vinnola is an Emmy award-winning producer focusing on storytelling at the intersection of journalism and spirituality. Nicole began her career in journalism working for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and has since become a skilled storyteller, having crafted 200+ hours of content for cable networks and online streamers alike. In 2015, Nicole received a development deal with Discovery Studios. She launched her boutique production company, focusing on developing and creating content more aligned with her worldview. Nezera Films is proud to be working in an expanded way, enjoying producing projects in the online educational space (MOOCs), long-form documentaries, and episodic series.

Nicole Vinnola will share her thoughts, experiences, and learnings on producing engaging courses that align with her values as well as working in the interdisciplinary field of psychedelics. 

Imran Khan

Event host Imran Khan is the executive director of BCSP. He works closely with the faculty on strategy and manages the BCSP team. Before joining BCSP, Imran was CEO of the British Science Association and head of public engagement for Wellcome, the world’s third-largest philanthropic foundation. He has a BA in biology from the University of Oxford, an MSc in science communication from Imperial College London, and an MBA from Bayes Business School. 

Imran Khan will lead our dynamic conversation, bringing the audience into the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics’ mission and vision and how the Center is positioned to support evidence-based public education. 

About the 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.

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

Sign up for the course here.