Behavioral, Molecular and Genetic Research
Although there are no funded grants for preclinical research at this time, most of the preclinical research is being carried out either by board members, or in the laboratories of our scientific advisors. For example, board members Drs. Mark Geyer and David Nichols continue to study the neuropharmacology of psychedelic agents. Dr. Geyer is a world-renowned authority on behavioral measures of effects of psychoactive drugs on cognitive processing in both animals and humans. In particular, his research involves a strong component of translational research, where models are being developed that may be predictive of cognitive dysfunction in human disease states such as schizophrenia. He also collaborates closely with Board member Dr. Franz Vollenweider at the Heffter Zurich Research center.
Dr. Nichols continues to study the molecular aspects of these substances. Most recently, his laboratory has been developing molecular models of the serotonin receptors using computational approaches, and is studying how various ligands, such as LSD, can bind to these receptors. Those studies are coupled with specific mutations in the receptor proteins to validate the virtual computational studies. His laboratory also is studying how different serotonin receptor activating molecules (agonists) can produce unique biochemical signals within brain neurons. He and his coworkers now have identified a unique pharmacological property of LSD that may be relevant to understanding schizophrenia, as well as certain altered states of consciousness.
One of our scientific advisors, Dr. Charles Nichols, carried out the first microarray analysis of gene expression changes produced in rodents following short and long term LSD administration. He and his coworkers have identified a number of important genes that are involved in regulating neuronal plasticity, suggesting that these substances may have long-ranging effects on brain function. His work is also translational, in that he anticipates identifying genes that may be involved in cognitive processes and altered states of consciousness, as well as in certain psychiatric disorders.