The Promise of Psychedelics

Nearly every culture throughout history has used chemicals that alter consciousness for spiritual exploration. In the 20th century these drugs caught the attention of scientists. Psychedelics, as they were named, proved effective at treating intractable illnesses like depression and addiction. And they became a tool for studying the mind, opening “the doors of perception,” as Aldous Huxley wrote. But those doors slammed shut when President Nixon declared psychedelics dangerous and medically useless. Join scientists and “psychonauts” who are now picking up where research left off 50 years ago, experimenting with LSD, psilocybin, DMT and other psychedelics to heal—and reveal—the mind.

The Big Ideas Series is supported in part by the John Templeton Foundation.

PARTICIPANTS: Alison Gopnik, Eduardo Kohn, Stephen Ross, Anil Seth

MODERATOR: Emily Senay


0:03 - Opening film
6:05 - Panelist introductions
7:27 - What are psychedelics?
11:00 - Phenomenological effects of psychedelics
14:31 - Brain development and plasticity
17:15 - Psychedelic usage in the Amazon
19:43 - Amazonian ayahuasca ceremony
20:51 - Dissolution of the ego
22:46 - Default mode network
25:17 - Psilocybin testing on religious professionals
27:59 - The shaman’s message from the rainforest
31:04 - Rainforest soundscape
33:03 - Mind altering experiences without drugs
37:03 - Philosophical questions about psychedelics
42:37 - Can psychedelics restore brain plasticity?
45:16 - Measuring randomness of brain activity
51:58 - Psychedelic drugs as medicine
58:38 - Psilocybin cancer study participants film and Q&A
1:04:43 - Treating psychiatric disorders with psychedelics
1:09:23 - Micro-dosing and “freelancing” psychedelics
1:13:50 - Medical complications and medication interactions
1:18:14 - The future of psychedelics in science

PROGRAM CREDITS - Produced by Nils Kongshaug - Associate Produced by Emmalina Glinskis - Short films produced / edited by Vin Liota - Music provided by APM - Additional images and footage provided by: Getty Images, Shutterstock, Videoblocks - Recorded at NYU Skirball Center This program is part of the BIG IDEAS SERIES, made possible with support from the JOHN TEMPLETON FOUNDATION. - SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel and "ring the bell" for all the latest videos from WSF - VISIT our Website: - LIKE us on Facebook: - FOLLOW us on Twitter: