Amanda Feilding is the Founder and Executive Director of the Beckley Foundation. She has been called the ‘hidden hand’ behind the Renaissance of Psychedelic Science, and her contribution to the advancement of psychedelic research and global drug policy has been pivotal and widely acknowledged.
Featured on the Guardian’s list of the Bravest Men and Women in the History of Science, Amanda has personally co-authored over 80 peer-reviewed scientific publications on psychoactive substances, many with ground-breaking results. By establishing key Research Programmes at some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, she has propelled the field forward over the last 20+ years, conducting landmark studies, such as the world’s first psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression study, the world’s first LSD, MDMA and DMT brain imaging studies, plus the initiation and collaboration with Johns Hopkins on the first study using psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to overcome nicotine addiction.
Since its inception in 1998, the Beckley Foundation has been at the forefront of exploratory research into psychedelics and cannabis, and evidence-based global drug policies. Through a series of pivotal international seminars at the House of Lords (starting in 2000) with leading figures from around the world in different fields, from science to politics, plus over 60 much-cited books, reports and papers, and numerous meetings with thought-leaders, academics, and policy-makers at the UN and governments around the world, Amanda has ensured that the Beckley Foundation has been at the forefront of global drug policy reform, particularly in the field of cannabis and the psychedelics.
Through her work with the Beckley Foundation, Amanda is bridging the gap between science and policy, creating a positive feedback loop, with the aim of building and harnessing our knowledge of the benefits of currently prohibited compounds to optimise human health, wellbeing and potential.
The significance of cerebral hemodynamics for human evolution and expanded states of consciousness
Theoretical background and rationale: Following the evolutionary leap to an upright position, humans were disadvantaged by a decrease in cerebral blood supply. To compensate for this loss, humans slowly developed a conditioned reflex mechanism – aka ‘ego’ (or the DMN) – which controlled the limited blood allocation to those centres most relevant to survival, resulting in large parts of the brain being repressed from function.
Research question and hypothesis: I propose that this shortage of blood is the source of many of humanity’s problems, and that psychedelics may act as tools to compensate for this loss, by reducing the repressive grip of the ego. Through 5HT2A agonism at the neurovascular unit, psychedelics cause an expansion of global capillary volume, and changes in blood distribution, such as reduced blood to the DMN. This global expansion results in increased metabolic energy supply, greater global connectivity between usually segregated brain networks, and increased entropy. This in turn manifests as increased awareness and expanded states of consciousness.
Methods and analysis: I propose a multi-armed research programme to explore psychedelic action through the lens of cerebral hemodynamics. This programme will make use of a range of neuroimaging modalities (7T precision fMRI, PET, fNRIS, MEG and microvascular imaging) to investigate the vascular changes induced by psychedelics at both the global and microscopic scale.
Conclusion: Where most psychedelic research has been focused on neuro-centric models, I propose a shift towards understanding the vascular effect of psychedelics, which could shed a new light on their potential therapeutic benefits.