This new conference (which is to take place in summer 2025) will explore the fundamental neurobiology, including molecular, cellular and behavioural aspects, of psychedelics and related psychoactive compounds. These comprise classical psychedelics, which are primarily 5-HT2A receptor agonists such as LSD, psilocybin, and DMT, entactogens such as MDMA, and dissociatives such as ketamine and ibogaine.
In humans, these compounds acutely influence sensory perception, alter sensitivity to environmental stimuli, and change mood and cognition. In laboratory animals, profound effects on brain state and behaviour have been demonstrated. Over a longer timescale, many of these compounds are reported to produce beneficial effects for a range of mental illnesses.
The scope of the conference includes molecular mechanisms of psychedelic compounds, effects on sensory, cognitive and behavioural functions, changes in functional and structural neural plasticity, animal models relevant for understanding psychedelic drug action, cortical and subcortical neural dynamics, psychopharmacology, and new avenues for drug development. Fuelled by breakthroughs in new crystal structure of receptors and synthesis of novel compounds, new technologies and cutting-edge tools have led to novel insights into the fundamental mechanisms of psychedelic action, which is attracting significant attention not only for the fundamental biology, but also for the applications in drug discovery and clinical relevance.
Vyazovskiy laboratory’s interest in psychedelics is related to the understudied effects of these compounds on sleep. The neurophysiological mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of psychedelics remains not entirely clear, but it is widely believed to be their potent ability to modulate synaptic plasticity. A prominent factor associated with psychiatric illness is disturbed sleep. In normal conditions, synaptic plasticity is regulated and homeostatically controlled by sleep; therefore, it would be surprising if sleep and psychedelic effects were not strongly interdependent at multiple scales, from single synapses to macroscale neural networks and behaviour. Yet, little is known about how psychedelics affect sleep, particularly in terms of the associated neural activity and its homeostatic regulation.
Ongoing projects in Vyazovskiy lab in this area resulted in a recent publication in Translational Psychiatry led by then graduate student Chris Thomas (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35197453/), and a preprint in bioRxiv titled “’Paradoxical wakefulness’ induced by psychedelic 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine in mice” where preliminary results of a study led by another DPhil student Benjamin Bréant are reported. In this study we discovered that a single administration of 5-MeO DMT in laboratory mice leads to a transient occurrence of a dissociated state of vigilance, characterised by wake behaviour accompanied by sleep-like patterns of oscillatory activity in the brain. We hypothesise that the altered state of vigilance characterised by intrinsically generated sleep oscillations may mediate beneficial effects of psychedelics, for example through homeostatic rebalancing of cortical networks or re-opening the window for neural plasticity.
The Gordon Research Conferences are a group of international scientific conferences (held since 1931) covering frontier research in the chemical, and physical and later biological, sciences, and their related technologies. The first inaugural GRC on “Neurobiology of Psychedelics” will be co-chaired by Vladyslav Vyazovskiy with Alex Kwan from Cornell University and vice-chairs are Vidita Vaidya and Melissa Herman.
Visit the conference website here