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← How can illegal drugs help our brains | David Nutt | TEDxBrussels

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Showing Revision 13 created 04/30/2017 by Denise RQ.

  1. Thank you.

  2. The last talk was about
  3. electronic technology
    and enhancing the brain.
  4. My talk's about an old technology
    enhancing the brain;
  5. an old technology
    that of course, you all know and love,
  6. and that's called drugs.
  7. But I'll come to that in a minute.
  8. I'm going to start with the brain
  9. because it's the most complex
    and evolved element
  10. in the whole universe.
  11. It's what got you here today,
    and hopefully, will get you home tonight.
  12. A single mouse brain has
    more computing power
  13. than all the computers on Earth today.
  14. Your brains are at least
    a million times more powerful.
  15. But unfortunately, it can go wrong.
  16. Over the last few years,
  17. we've discovered the scale of problems
    that brain disorders produce.
  18. The sum total of illness and cost
    to society from brain disorders
  19. is greater than that from cancer,
  20. cardio-vascular disease,
    and diabetes put together.
  21. You see on the graph there
  22. it's the equivalent each year
    to nearly 800 billion euros.
  23. It is if we're paying off
    the Greek debt every year
  24. in the burden of illness
    produced by brain disorders.
  25. We know that investment in these disorders
    is not matching the enormous burden.
  26. Here, you can see
    on the left hand graph, the red circle;
  27. 'brain disorders' are way outside
    the predicted line of investment.
  28. They're the largest disability,
  29. and the investment is
    disproportionately low.
  30. On the right-hand side, you can see
    one of the reasons for this.
  31. You can see the attrition rate for drugs
  32. that go through discovery
    into development.
  33. Look at the second cylinder there.
  34. You can see that from
    200 Alzheimer's drugs in development,
  35. only one reaches the clinic.
  36. The brain is
    a very difficult organ to treat.
  37. Why does the brain go wrong?
  38. It goes wrong
    because of external influences:
  39. malnutrition, still a big problem;
  40. parental and other abuse
    - psychological and physical -;
  41. toxins - particularly alcohol.
  42. These are images of my own research
    showing a normal brain at the top
  43. and a brain severely damaged
    by alcohol misuse lower down.
  44. Infections such as meningitis,
    encephalitis are still common,
  45. and trauma is a massive problem
  46. in terms of leading
    to long-term brain damage
  47. particularly in young men.
  48. And then, there are internal aspects
    of the brain development
  49. that can go wrong:
    related conditions like autism.
  50. You can have acquired
    abnormalities like epilepsy
  51. and there are age-related changes
    such as dementia.
  52. But the real focus of my talk today
    is how the brain limits itself
  53. and how we can perhaps expand its capacity
    or take away the limit it puts on itself.
  54. Your brain is most flexible
    when you're a baby.
  55. Some people would argue
  56. that the whole process of education
    is about taking away flexibility
  57. and forcing every one of you
    to think and behave in the same way.
  58. It's about getting conformity of process
  59. which of course is useful
  60. if you're trying to speak a language
    the same way as other people,
  61. but may not be useful
  62. if it limits how you can deal with
    other things such as problems.
  63. And also, the constraining of the brain
    in itself can lead to problems;
  64. if there is not enough of it
    in the right place,
  65. you get disorders
    such as ADHD and schizophrenia.
  66. If you get excessive constraints,
  67. you can end up with disorders
    like OCD and addiction.
  68. And also the resilience
    in the brain can be impaired,
  69. and that will lead to disorders
    such as anxiety and depression.
  70. The core of my talk really is showing you
    how we can now understand
  71. the limitations that the brain
    constrains the mind with
  72. through using drugs.
  73. This research really goes back
    to the 1950s
  74. and the personal experience
    of this man, Aldous Huxley,
  75. who used peyote and used
    LSD, psychedelic drugs,
  76. to understand his mind.
  77. He wrote about it in the book
    "The Doors of Perception,"
  78. and he used this quote from William Blake
  79. to explain how these drugs
    changed his mind.
  80. He said, "If the doors
    of perception were cleansed,
  81. everything would appear
    to man as it is, Infinite.
  82. For man has closed himself up
  83. till he sees all things through
    narrow chinks of his cavern."
  84. And Huxley realized
    that what psychedelics do
  85. is take away this phenomenon
    that he inferred
  86. which is that "the brain is
    an instrument for focusing the mind."
  87. Modern neuroscience
    has shown they were right.
  88. Because, what we now know
  89. is that the brain creates
    what the mind thinks it's doing.
  90. Here is an example of vision.
  91. You might be looking out
    at a glorious sunset,
  92. but in reality, the light rays
    go into your retina
  93. and are transformed
    into a series of electrical impulses
  94. which pass into parts in your brain.
  95. And those parts of the brain
    reconstruct an image
  96. that they think you're seeing.
  97. And that image, in the words of Blake,
  98. is seeing through the constraints,
    the chinks of the cavern
  99. that your brain puts on it.
  100. And if you have mental illness
    - for instance, depression or addiction -
  101. then what you see is also
    constrained by your brain.
  102. So depressed people don't see
    even the brightness of the sky.
  103. They see a dull grey.
  104. And of course, people with addiction
  105. when they see through
    the chinks of their cavern,
  106. they simply see the drugs
    that they're addicted to.
  107. Psychedelic drugs
    take away that limitation.
  108. They allow the mind to work
    in a much more flexible way.
  109. This is our research using psilocybin
    in magic mushroom juice.
  110. Those two images contain
    the same number of connections.
  111. But on the left-hand image, under placebo,
  112. you see that most of the connections
    are around the edge.
  113. The brain talks to itself
    in regional ways.
  114. But under psilocybin,
  115. there's a massive cross-talk,
    much more integration;
  116. parts of the brain which haven't talk
    to each other since you were children
  117. are able to engage.
  118. And that's how people can get new insights
  119. and also, potentially overcome damage
    of dysfunction of the brain.
  120. Here is another study using LSD
    showing essentially the same thing.
  121. On the left-hand side,
  122. you see the visual cortex is
    normally very local in how it works.
  123. But under LSD,
    when people have their eyes closed,
  124. they can see enormously vivid,
    interesting sets of images.
  125. And that's because the brain is
    much more interconnected under LSD
  126. than normal.
  127. Here you see that the visual cortex
  128. connects to most of the rest
    of the brain in that state.
  129. We've been able to utilize this liberation
    of processing of the brain,
  130. produced by psychedelics,
  131. to treat people with depression.
  132. Here is a study published last year
  133. where we took people with depression
  134. who failed two previous
    anti-depressive treatments,
  135. and also had failed psychotherapy.
  136. They were given
    a single dose of psilocybin,
  137. and you can see there, that a week later,
  138. all of them had recovered to some extend,
  139. and half of them were now
    in a state of remission.
  140. They were in the yellow bar there,
  141. which shows that their depression
    has actually gone away.
  142. And that's not the first evidence
  143. that psychedelics have therapy
    or have therapeutic uses.
  144. We also have evidence
    from around the world
  145. that psilocybin can be useful in helping
    people deal with alcohol dependence,
  146. with smoking dependence,
    with obsessive compulsive disorder.
  147. And most recently,
  148. two major studies showing
    it can help people come to terms
  149. with the anxiety and the depression
  150. which almost always accompany
    a diagnosis of a terminal illness.
  151. So, these drugs can have
    potentially enormous opportunities
  152. for helping people deal
    with mental distress.
  153. It's not just psychedelics
    that can have that potential.
  154. Many illegal drugs have medical uses.
  155. So for non-psychedelics
    such as MDMA, ecstasy,
  156. where there is good evidence
    in post-traumatic stress disorder
  157. and also some studies
    going on in addiction.
  158. And of course, there is cannabis
  159. where we have a range
    of different disorders
  160. from pain, spasticity, cancer, epilepsy,
  161. inflammatory diseases,
    and also sleep disorders.
  162. All of these, potentially, are amenable
    to treatment with cannabis.
  163. So, why don't we use these drugs?
  164. That's because the WHL and the UN
    have said they are too dangerous,
  165. which is certainly untrue.
  166. I can tell you categorically
  167. none of our patients died
    in the experiments we did on them.
  168. Most of our governments
    perpetuate this lie.
  169. And many of us - hopefully, not you -
    have closed minds.
  170. We do not want to believe
    that these might have therapeutic utility.
  171. So I want to say to you now,
  172. surely now: you, if not everyone,
  173. should accept the fact
  174. that these drugs potentially
    could be very important medicines.
  175. For the sake of the millions of people
    in the world who could be helped,
  176. it's time to say there should be no limits
  177. to the therapeutic research
    we do with these drugs.
  178. Thank you.
  179. (Applause)