Thesis ID: CBB001560587

Neuropsychedelia. The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain (2007)


Langlitz, Nicolas David (Author)

University of California, Berkeley
Rabinow, Paul

Publication Date: 2007
Edition Details: Advisor: Rabinow, Paul
Physical Details: 427 pp.
Language: English

This thesis examines the rearticulation of the drug-induced "psychedelic experience" in the age of cognitive neuroscience. It provides a historical and social scientific analysis of the social and cultural conditions of the most recent transformation of this historically singular form of limit experience along three axes: types of understanding, forms of normativity, and modes of relation to oneself and to others (Foucault). The implication of these social conditions in subjective experience takes a particular form in the case of hallucinogen ingestion: The psychopharmacological effects of these drugs are thought to be highly dependent on a subject's internal state and expectations and the environment, in which the drugs are taken. The environment ethnographically described in this study is the meticulously regulated space of two neuropsychopharmacology laboratories in Zurich and San Diego that have played central roles in the so-called revival of hallucinogen research since around 1990. The thesis examines the "external conditions" (Weber) of this renaissance in the "Decade of the Brain" after political, regulatory, and scientific developments had led to the termination of most research on psychedelics in the course of the 1960s. The use of hallucinogen action as a model of psychosis is analyzed. With respect to hallucinogen-based animal models of schizophrenia the thesis discusses how humanness is dissolved and demarcated in biological psychiatry. In the Zurich lab, neuroscientists also attempted to "operationalize" and solve certain problems drawn from debates over the nature of consciousness in the philosophy of mind by turning them into experiments. Studying the transplantation of philosophy into the lab from a social scientific viewpoint raises a number of interesting questions concerning the social life of philosophical ideas and the neuroscientific suffusion of a problem space previously occupied by the humanities. Finally, this study investigates the "internal conditions" (Weber) of hallucinogen research today: the scientific ethos underlying the work of a new generation of researchers fascinated by the psychedelic experience and their highly original strategies of integrating these experiences into their conduct of life. The inquiry uniquely highlights a number of anthropological implications of psychopharmacology, especially the connection between the human brain and subjective experience.


Description “The environment ethnographically described in this study is the meticulously regulated space of two neuropsycho-pharmacology laboratories in Zurich and San Diego that have played central roles in the so-called revival of hallucinogen research since around 1990.” (from the abstract) Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 69/05 (2008). Pub. no. AAT 3311671.

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Authors & Contributors
Craver, Carl F.
Singh, Ilina
Moreno, Jonathan D.
Hersch, Matthew Howard
Tone, Andrea
Lazar, J. Wayne
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Journal of the History of Biology
Science in Context
Pharmacy in History
The Senses and Society
The MIT Press
Dana Press
Basic Books
University of Washington Press
Iowa State University
Psychotropic drugs
Therapeutic practice; therapy; treatment
Eve Marder
Time Periods
20th century, late
21st century
19th century
United States
San Diego (California)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Eli Lilly and Company
Harvard University
Brandeis University
Purdue University (Lafayette, Indiana)

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