Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain

Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain

Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain

Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain

Synopsis

Neuropsychedelia examines the revival of psychedelic science since the "Decade of the Brain." After the breakdown of this previously prospering area of psychopharmacology, and in the wake of clashes between counterculture and establishment in the late 1960s, a new generation of hallucinogen researchers used the hype around the neurosciences in the 1990s to bring psychedelics back into the mainstream of science and society. This book is based on anthropological fieldwork and philosophical reflections on life and work in two laboratories that have played key roles in this development: a human lab in Switzerland and an animal lab in California. It sheds light on the central transnational axis of the resurgence connecting American psychedelic culture with the home country of LSD. In the borderland of science and religion, Neuropsychedelia explores the tensions between the use of hallucinogens to model psychoses and to evoke spiritual experiences in laboratory settings. Its protagonists, including the anthropologist himself, struggle to find a place for the mystical under conditions of late-modern materialism.

Excerpt

Neuropsychedelia is about the revival of psychedelic research since the “Decade of the Brain.” When us president George H.W. Bush (1990) dedicated the 1990s to neuroscience, he paid tribute to the unprecedented public valorization of this prospering branch of medicine and the life sciences. By contrast, the investigation of hallucinogenic drugs had enjoyed less government support in the preceding two decades. Most academic and corporate research projects had been closed down or run out of funding after the clash between the “counterculture” and the “Establishment” in the 1960s. Only in the underground had experimentation with this class of substances continued to flourish. But, as the twentieth century was coming to an end, some of those who had been young during the so-called psychedelic era and who had subsequently chosen not to “turn on, tune in, and drop out,” but to pursue careers in medicine or science, were running their own research groups and sensed that the time was ripe for a second attempt to introduce hallucinogenic drugs into the academy and the Western pharmacopoeia. the growing public esteem of brain science helped them to relegitimate their research interest in psychedelics, not as symbols of social dissent or as magic drugs, but as tools to study different neurotransmitter systems, the neural correlates of consciousness, or the biological substrates of schizophrenia.

The two neuropsychopharmacological laboratories at the center of this anthropological inquiry have played key roles in the revival. Franz . . .

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