Psychedelics as a Scientific Tool for Mental Health

An Interview with Marvin Däumichen, MA, co-founder of the MIND Foundation

Psychedelic drugs might become the next big therapeutic tool to fight depression and other psychiatric disorders as “changes in self-experience, emotional processing and social cognition may contribute to the potential therapeutic effects” (Vollenweider & Preller, 2020). Classical psychedelics like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin (magic mushrooms) that are administered with appropriate guidance and in a controlled therapeutic setting that includes preparation and reflexion upon the experience were shown to enhance mental health (Walton & Liknaitzky, 2020). 

We talked to Marvin Däumichen who is a co-founder of the MIND Foundation about the history and potential of psychedelics as a treatment for mental health and why high-quality research and promoting knowledge is inevitable to boost this field. The MIND Foundation is a European non-profit science and education organization that aims to build a healthier, more connected world through psychedelic research and education. 

Marvin Däumichen: The foundation was started by a group of individuals from all different kinds of professions – researchers, therapists, medical professionals, students and friends. Different backgrounds and interests of the members represent the fragmented and diverse field of psychedelic cultures. My personal motivation to join the research field had been long standing, it was a theme throughout my life. and I started immersing myself in the socio-cultural history of psychedelics and slowly became more vocal about the relevance and implications of psychedelic experience in society, arts, politics and medical contexts.

Anna Köstler: You mentioned an obvious difference in the field of psychedelics between personal experiences among users on the one hand and a scientific, intersubjective approach on the other. Would you say it is a rather new research field?

Marvin Däumichen: Psychedelic traditions have been around for a long time, but psychedelic research only started in the late 19th century. Albert Hoffmann for instance discovered the psychoactive properties of LSD in 1943 and by the 1940ies and 50ies psychedelics had been embraced by parts of the psychiatric community and used for treatment of substance misuse. By the 1960s there had been a body of scientific literature published, confirming findings that these substances can be very useful for the treatment of many psychiatric disorders. 

Anna Köstler: Why do you think, in comparison to antidepressants like SSRIs, is there an ongoing stigma about psychedelics? 

Marvin Däumichen: The interaction of set, setting, and dose are critical for the overall effect of psychedelics. People can take the same substance but set different intentions and may have a dramatically different experience because the setting is not the same (on the interactions of  Drug, Set, and Setting, see Zinberg 1984). The experience with psychedelics can be risky, especially regarding specific genetic predispositions and uncontrolled use. Further, SSRIs are not fun, they do not have an experiential, phenomenological aspect to them and they are linear in action. That is why recreational use and misuse happened involving psychedelics while SSRIs are not abused much. Research on psychedelics was always happening, it just got derailed when people started using psychedelics as an act of political dissidence in the 1960s. When LSD got out of the lab and onto the streets, it got out of hand and overall, it became a political movement. 

Anna Köstler: Your foundation focuses on education on the potentials of psychedelics as a tool for mental health through scientific methods. What is important for you in terms of research, what must information about psychedelics imply to be in accordance with your philosophy? 

Marvin Däumichen: The values of the MIND Foundation are based in the philosophical tradition of enlightenment, reason and critical thinking. Within these foundations of mental autonomy and democracy, people should be able to educate themselves and think independently to make informed decisions grounded in evidence-based information that people can then incorporate as factual knowledge. No magical thinking or pseudo-shamanism is involved in what we are doing, we rather focus on studies that have shown long lasting positive effects on mental health with just very few interventions with psychedelic substances. We offer education to professional adults and students, work together with established researchers, collaborate with universities and institutes to conduct research and share information about treatment options for people that seek help.

Anna Köstler: How would a typical therapeutic setting with psychedelic treatment unfold? 

Marvin Däumichen: There is a lot of good research that took place in recent years and since the late 2000s, interest in psychedelics has resurfaced. These studies are in line with clinical standards and found out that a certain type of therapy seems particularly promising with psychedelic treatment. A therapeutic approach that has been used a lot in clinical studies is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which is part of the so-called third wave of cognitive-behavioral therapies. The patient will receive only a couple of dosing sessions and additional talking therapy interventions for preparation and integration.

Anna Köstler: The ultimate goal of your foundation would be to make people understand psychedelics as a normal and standard treatment for mental health, right? 

Marvin Däumichen: Absolutely! There should be no doubt about the potentials as it is striking how effective this treatment can be. The responses among patients are very positive. This is not for the sake of progress of our foundation or monetary interest but to alleviate suffering in the world. Mental health plays a big role, especially nowadays and we are constantly looking for better treatments and better methods as mental health makes no exception. 

Anna Köstler: How can one get involved in the MIND Foundation?

Marvin Däumichen: Our organization is growing rapidly. We are hosting public events on a regular basis, like get-to-know meetups that are entirely free. We do public talks, symposiums, workshops, experiential programs on the MIND Academy, and a large conference that happens every other year where hard science and implementation come together. People can volunteer, there is the opportunity to do an internship and we already have a lot of psychology and neuroscience students supporting us in various activities in educational and research projects. Moreover, we are cooperation partner in a large, psilocybin depression study, lead by Prof. Dr. Gerhard Gründer at the CIMH Mannheim and the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, starting in early 2021. The project is making history in Germany. Lastly, especially for students, we started the uniMIND project, which is a lively, international journal club network that will host a Symposium at the University of Zurich in June 2021. Many of their meetings are happening online these days, entirely free, fun, and educational.

 

Anna Köstler

Anna just finished her master's studies in psychology at the University of Vienna. For her thesis she studied neural correlates of empathy in the brain and is aiming to follow her interest in neuroscience, clinical psychology, sleep and science communication. Traveling, friends, making music and writing keep her busy during leisure time.

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How to score a perfect PhD

Finding a perfect PhD is somewhat like dating: there is no such thing as a soulmate-PhD, but some are still better than others; the number of options seems overwhelming at first, but most of them crumble once inspected carefully; and, of course, once committed, the choice will significantly influence the rest of your life. To make it even more challenging, the soulmate-PhD problem is also expected to be dealt with at the most vulnerable point in the lifetime of a studentas if by Murphy’s law, the deadlines usually land somewhere between the final in the sequence of many exams and the Masters thesis defense. Under such conditions, even the most genuinely motivated students might be at risk of falling into the trap of uncertainty and marrying a PhD that does not fully capture their interests and expectations.

This blogpost is meant to serve as a roadmap to your perfect PhD. It will push you to reflect on your intentions and research interests, introduce a simple framework for tracking your progress, suggest several common search engines for PhD vacancies, and walk you through the general process of writing applications and preparing for interviews. It is mostly comprised of personal experiences and insights, with occasional references to useful tools and resources. Importantly, the process described here primarily applies to graduate schools and PhD positions in (Western) Europe and in life/social sciences (primarily cognitive science and neurosciences); while steps 0–4 should be widely relevant, steps 4–8 might diverge for PhD applications in other academic systems or fields.


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Karla Matić

Karla Matić is a PhD student at Max Planck School of Cognition interested in cognitive neuroscience, large-scale neuroimaging methodology, and science policy. Her research topics include visual awareness, functional architecture of sensory cortices, and meta-cognition. If she didn't aspire for an academic career, she would be running a book-café on a small Croatian island.

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Open Science in Times of Corona

How research has changed through the pandemic 

Let’s talk about the movement towards connected and open science that has happened and is still happening right now due to the pandemic that the corona virus brought upon us. You may have noticed as well that research has started to stretch its boundaries remarkably in the presence of the virus. Facing death, the fear of losing people close to your heart and the threat of our very own existential foundations has turned not only our personal but the economic and scientific world upside down. 
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Anna Köstler

Anna just finished her master's studies in psychology at the University of Vienna. For her thesis she studied neural correlates of empathy in the brain and is aiming to follow her interest in neuroscience, clinical psychology, sleep and science communication. Traveling, friends, making music and writing keep her busy during leisure time.

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Open Science Bottom Up – An interview with SIOS (Student Initiative for Open Science)

The field of psychology has been profoundly impacted by the replication and reproducibility crises – which unearthed many issues in the way psychological science is conducted (if you are unfamiliar or want to refresh your knowledge, Galetzka, 2019, offers a short summary).

As a reaction to these issues, many initiatives across the world are now trying to implement changes in our research culture – changes that are usually referred to under the umbrella term “Open Science”.
One of the fundamental characteristics is that many of these initiatives are lead by young researchers eager to do the best research they can. These are mostly PhD students or PostDocs, but under-/graduate students often lead, too.

We at JEPS share these convictions as well and try to promote Open Science principles, for instance by offering Registered Reports or informing students through our JEPS Ambassadors.
But more importantly, we are glad to be joined by other students’ initiatives with the same goals – which we would like to present to you in our ongoing series “Open Science Bottom Up”. Last time, we presented you OSIP and their work they do across Germany – check out our interview.

Now, we got together with Myrthe Veenman, Karoline Huth, Lea Schuhmacher, and Maike Dahrendorf from the University of Amsterdam.
The four founded SIOS, the Student Initiative for Open Science – as they describe it: a home for “students with a passion for Open Science”.
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Leonhard Volz

Leonhard Volz

Leonhard currently is in his bachelor's studies in psychology and in statistics at the University of Vienna and a student assistant at the Educational Psychology department. His main areas of interest are research methodology and knowledge transfer in interdisciplinary psychological research - under the banner of Open Science principles. His personal happy moments are when he finds the time to open up a novel again.

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Doing Open Science in a Developing Country – An Interview with Dr. Chuan-Peng Hu

Photo by courtesy of Dr. Hu

Open Science practices are becoming increasingly common and we at the Journal of European Psychology Students, are committed to Open Science practices and to promote researchers engaging in them.

Today, we have the privilege of interviewing one of these researchers. Dr. Chuan-Peng Hu is a postdoctoral researcher at the German Resilience Center (Deutsches Resilienz Zentrum, DRZ) in Mainz and an Assistant Director at the Psychological Science Accelerator (PSA). After studying Law and Psychology at University, he completed a Master’s programme in Social Psychology in Wuhan, China. In 2007, he completed his PhD in Beijing before moving to Germany. His research investigates the consolidation of positive memories, which may play a role in the resilience to stress.

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Maximilian Primbs

Maximilian is a Research Master´s student in Behavioural Science at Radboud University and a Research Assistant at the Behavioural Science Institute. He´s interested in prejudice, stereotypes, faces, and research methodology. In his free time, he enjoys contact sports and metal music.

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Exploratory and Confirmatory Hypothesis Testing

Introduction

The replication crisis has spread all across the scientific community. In the field of psychology, scientists were not able to replicate more than half of previous findings (Open Science Collaboration, 2015). For a long time this problem went unnoticed, but a critical moment occurred when Daryl Bem published his now infamous paper on humans’ ability to quite literally predict the future (Bem, 2011). Many readers doubted his findings as there was no logical basis for the ability to predict the future and years later Daniel Engber summarized it nicely when he wrote:

(…) the paper posed a very difficult dilemma. It was both methodologically sound and logically insane. (…). If you bought into those results, you’d be admitting that much of what you understood about the universe was wrong. If you rejected them, you’d be admitting something almost as momentous: that the standard methods of psychology cannot be trusted, and that much of what gets published in the field—and thus, much of what we think we understand about the mind—could be total bunk.“ (Engber, 2017)

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Patrick Smela

Patrick is currently finishing his Bachelor in Psychology at the University Vienna. Afterwards, he will to do his Masters in General Psychology and Methodology. He is passionate about research methods, especially in the field Human Computer Interaction. Besides work, he likes to travel, read, and does a lot of voluntary work in the psychological faculty in Vienna.

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Editors’ Picks: Summer Reading List

Your semester has ended and you are already bored by how much time the holidays freed up?
Do you want to dive deeper into issues around psychological science, but did not know where to start?

For the next weeks, we are going to be sharing our JEPS editors’ recommendations for your summer readings & listenings on different psychological topics. These will include all sorts of media, from newspaper articles or podcasts to journal articles we thought you should definitely read.


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Leonhard Volz

Leonhard Volz

Leonhard currently is in his bachelor's studies in psychology and in statistics at the University of Vienna and a student assistant at the Educational Psychology department. His main areas of interest are research methodology and knowledge transfer in interdisciplinary psychological research - under the banner of Open Science principles. His personal happy moments are when he finds the time to open up a novel again.

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Open Science Bottom-Up: An Interview with OSIP (PsyFaKo’s Open Science Initiative)

For us Editors of JEPS, one of the most important topics in current psychological science and beyond are the issues of replicability and reproducibility [for an introduction, see Galetzka, 2019], as well as possible paths to solutions.

The keyword here is Open Science, an umbrella term for activities which strive to make science more transparent, openly accessible, and reproducible, in an effort to increase our confidence in the results we read in the body of scientific literature.

While many Open Science initiatives are led by more senior researchers, the movement is fundamentally driven by bottom-up initiatives of early-career researchers, but students as well.

For this interview, we sat down and got together with one of these student-led initiatives: The PsyFaKo’s Open Science Initiative [OSIP, Open Science Initiative der PsyFaKo e.V., webpage in German], a working group in the German Convention of Student Councils of Psychology. They made headlines in the landscape of German psychology last year when they released a position paper on the Replication Crisis and Open Science, which had a considerable impact at German universities. Continue reading

Leonhard Volz

Leonhard Volz

Leonhard currently is in his bachelor's studies in psychology and in statistics at the University of Vienna and a student assistant at the Educational Psychology department. His main areas of interest are research methodology and knowledge transfer in interdisciplinary psychological research - under the banner of Open Science principles. His personal happy moments are when he finds the time to open up a novel again.

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7 Easy Steps to Building your Own Shiny App from Scratch

Shiny is a powerful tool in R for you to show off your work to the world, without explaining all the complicated code behind your analysis. Because of its free and open-source development and deployment structure, sharing your methods or work online was never easier. For example, in our recent publication in the Journal of European Psychology Students my colleagues and me used Shiny to implement a network method in which we used the concept of network centrality to determine the most relevant articles in a research field. Because I believe there are a lot of benefits in sharing one’s methods, my hopes are that this blog post has the possibility to also inspire you to share your own work through Shiny. I will walk you though developing your own R Shiny application from scratch, tailoring it to your design choices, and publishing it online, in 7 easy steps. Continue reading

Koen Derks

Koen Derks is a PhD student at Nyenrode Business University. Before he started researching Bayesian statistics in financial auditing, he studied psychological methods at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), where his interests for statistics and programming developed itself. Today, he is still collaborating with the UvA to develop software tools for students and practitioners to make data analysis fun and intuitive.

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Publishing the results of coursework research: An interview with Julian Burger and Koen Derks

submit-you-mustBeing an undergrad is hard. With the days spent in lecture rooms and the nights devoted to catching up with essays and assignments, one wonders how is it even possible for undergrads to do any research – let alone publish it. While there is no expectation from undergrads to publish, a rough (and very anecdotal) approximation is that around 1 in 100 students publish during their undergraduate studies in either a peer-reviewed journal or other online outlets. (However, this highly depends on the field and publishing culture of the affiliated institution). There are also many benefits to publishing as undergrad; as illustrated by Griffith (2001), an early publication – regardless of the importance of the findings or prominence of the outlet – can increase student’s confidence and inspire a prolific academic career in the future. So how do these acclaimed one-in-a-hundred undergrads manage to publish amid challenges of the student life? Continue reading

Karla Matić

Karla Matić is a PhD student at Max Planck School of Cognition interested in cognitive neuroscience, large-scale neuroimaging methodology, and science policy. Her research topics include visual awareness, functional architecture of sensory cortices, and meta-cognition. If she didn't aspire for an academic career, she would be running a book-café on a small Croatian island.

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