Johns Hopkins Centre for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research (CPRC) has made a significant announcement regarding its leadership.

Dr. Frederick Barrett has been appointed as the new Director of the centre, succeeding Dr. Roland Griffiths who held the position since its establishment in 2019.

The news comes after Griffiths, 76, was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer. While Dr. Griffiths will continue his association with Hopkins University School of Medicine as a faculty member, he will also remain a part of CPRC's leadership team.

Dr. Barrett previously served as the Associate Director of CPRC. He is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and holds appointments in the Department of Neuroscience and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

With a background in cognitive neuroscience and behavioural pharmacology, Dr. Barrett obtained his PhD in psychology from the University of California, Davis. He further pursued a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Behavioural Pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Since 2013, Dr. Barrett has been actively engaged in psychedelic research at Johns Hopkins University, with a specific focus on understanding the psychological and neurological mechanisms underlying the acute subjective and enduring therapeutic effects of psychedelics.

Dr. Barrett received the first federally funded human psychedelic research grant from the National Institutes of Health since the 1970s. He has authored or co-authored groundbreaking studies that characterise the lasting impacts of psilocybin on emotion, cognition and brain function in humans. His work explores the acute effects of psilocybin on the claustrum — a brain structure implicated in consciousness and cognition, as well as the neural effects of substances like LSD and salvinorin A.

Watch Dr Barrett's TEDMED 2020 talk about how music and psychedelics have the potential to open our minds and connect us with our most authentic selves. 

Currently, Dr. Barrett is leading a clinical trial aimed at investigating the potential of psilocybin therapy in treating major depressive disorder and co-occurring alcohol use disorder. He is actively involved in ongoing studies aimed at deepening our understanding of the psychological, biological and neural mechanisms that contribute to the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic drugs.

With Dr. Barrett's appointment, the centre is looking to advance its mission of exploring the potential of psychedelics in the realm of mental health and consciousness.

“I am deeply honoured to have been appointed to lead the tremendously talented team of faculty and staff at CPCR," Dr Barrett said. "Since its founding in 2019, CPCR has been at the forefront of psychedelic research, and it has been a privilege to have the opportunity to contribute to its record of success.

"I look forward to further collaborating with my colleagues and other researchers in the field as we work toward advancing new breakthroughs in our understanding of these remarkable compounds.”

Dr. Roland Griffiths is stepping down as Director of Johns Hopkins Centre for Psychedelic and Consciousness Researcher, who held the position since its establishment in 2019. Credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine / CPCR

Dr. Griffiths said: “Working side by side with Fred over the last decade has allowed me to witness firsthand his excellence as a researcher, his profound commitment to rigorous science and his strong ethical and moral underpinnings. Combined with his humility and commitment to his colleagues, these characteristics will serve him and CPCR exceptionally well as he assumes his role as CPCR Director.”

Director of the UC Davis Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics Dr. David Olson said: “Dr. Griffiths is a true trailblazer who has courageously pushed the frontiers of psychedelic science even when it wasn’t fashionable. The founding of the CPCR paved the way for our own institute and other academic groups to study this important class of compounds, and hopefully find new treatments for patients.

"As a trained cognitive neuroscientist with a deep knowledge of behavioural pharmacology, Dr. Barrett brings exciting mechanistic insights to psychedelic medicine. Under his leadership, I have no doubt that the CPCR will continue to do amazing work and help to answer some of the big questions remaining in this field.”

Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences Director James Potash said: “I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Dr. Barrett to this critically important role as the CPCR’s new Director. He is a pioneering researcher in the field of psychedelic science, and he brings great dynamism, intellectual power, and deeply grounded values to this position. I am confident he will drive the CPCR to continued success as a world leader in psychedelic research.”

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Griffiths for his remarkable leadership of CPCR. He has been a true visionary in the field of psychedelic research. His legacy in sparking renewed interest in psychedelics cannot be overstated. The work he has done and set in motion stands to potentially benefit millions of people suffering from debilitating mental disorders.”

Main image: Johns Hopkins Medicine / CPCR