#667: Dr. Gül Dölen on Rethinking Psychedelics, New Applications (Autism, Stroke, and Allergies), The Neurobiology of Beginner’s Mind, Octopuses on MDMA, and The Master Key of Metaplasticity

The Tim Ferriss Show

Apr 19 2023 • 2 hrs 6 mins

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Dr. Gül Dölen is an associate professor of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a pioneer and world leader of psychedelics research. Her laboratory has discovered a novel mechanism that could account for the broad range of therapeutic applications that psychedelics are currently being tested for. Her lab has discovered a novel critical period for social reward learning and shown that this critical period can be reopened with psychedelic drugs, such as MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, ketamine, and ibogaine. Building on this discovery, she has formulated the hypothesis that psychedelics may be the long sought “master key” for unlocking critical periods across the brain. To test this hypothesis, she has initiated a nationwide collaborative effort to determine whether psychedelics reopen critical periods for ocular dominance plasticity, bird song learning, anatomical plasticity in the barrel cortex, serotonergic neuronal regeneration, dendritic spinogenesis, and motor learning.

Importantly, understanding psychedelics through this framework dramatically expands the scope of disorders (including autism, stroke, and allergies) that might benefit from adjunct therapy with psychedelics, an approach she has dubbed the PHATHOM project (Psychedelic Healing: Adjunct Therapy Harnessing Opened Malleability).

Dr. Dölen earned her MD, PhD at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she carried out seminal work on critical periods, learning and memory, and the pathogenesis of autism.

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[06:25] How Gül designed her own major as an undergrad.

[09:03] Philosophy of mind and theory of mind.

[13:33] What theory of mind in non-human species suggests.

[16:45] The origin of Gül's interest in autism.

[21:37] Autism facts vs. fiction.

[28:31] Critical periods.

[37:59] How critical periods apply to therapies for autism.

[43:37] Why might psychedelics allow us to reopen shut critical periods?

[49:25] MDMA and the octopus.

[52:40] Challenging popular notions about psychedelic research.

[54:52] Plasticity.

[1:00:26] Favorite neurotransmitter receptors.

[1:06:03] Can psychedelics cure allergies?

[1:14:00] Seeking a common pathway for the therapeutic effects of psychedelics.

[1:15:54] Potential applications for kappa-opioid agonists.

[1:17:02] Beta-arrestin developments.

[1:20:40] On Sasha Shulgin.

[1:26:19] Strokes.

[1:29:56] Cross-cultural considerations.

[1:33:26] What do these therapies look like 10 years from now?

[1:36:52] Gauging minimum effective dose.

[1:42:58] The funding frustrations that almost made Gül give up science.

[1:48:44] Taking risks.

[1:52:59] What would Gül change about the way research is funded today?

[1:55:57] Books most gifted.

[1:59:10] Parting thoughts.


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