#18 - Dr. Gül Dölen: Can Ibogaine Open Critical Periods?

September 16, 2023

Dr. Gül Dölen, MD, PhD, is an associate professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. In her lab, her team focuses on how the brain enables social behaviors through basic neurobiological processes such as neuromodulation and synaptic plasticity. Dölen has led several headline-making studies in the psychedelic field, including one in 2018 that involved giving MDMA to octopuses, and a more recent study that revealed psychedelics can reopen the “critical period” in the brain.

What we discuss:

  • How Dr. Dölen became interested in studying psychedelics after focusing on learning and memory as well as the pathogenesis of autism
  • The study that turned things around: why study the effects of psychedelics in an evolutionarily distant species like the octopus?
  • What giving octopuses MDMA revealed about their normally solitary behavior
  • The implications in the world of psychedelic science after studying their effects on this kind of animal
  • Defining critical periods: What are they? What are the benefits of experiencing a critical period?
  • Dr. Dölen’s hypothesis: Could psychedelics be the “master key” to reopening critical periods?
  • Which drugs are best at reopening critical periods? Where does ibogaine stand?
  • Are there any risks associated with experiencing an abundance of critical periods?
  • The problem with the word ‘plasticity’

Why it’s important: 

Dr. Dölen’s pioneering research–both the study of MDMA in octopuses and her more recent work on unlocking critical periods–allows us to look at psychedelic drugs in different ways: in evolutionarily distant species with entirely different brain structures, and as “master keys” that could potentially unlock those periods. While there aren’t many studies that put different psychedelic drugs on a spectrum of efficacy, her work shows that among MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, and ketamine, ibogaine leads the way when it comes to opening critical periods – a piece of information that (hopefully) encourages more scientists in the psychedelic space to study this powerful medicine. 

Show notes

About the podcast

Can the psychedelic ibogaine really get to the root of trauma? In Ibogaine Uncovered, author and journalist Amanda Siebert explores the impact of this powerful medicine including what prompts people to seek it out and how their lives are often transformed through the teachings they receive. Guests take an honest look at their healing journey, unpacking their lived experiences with substance use disorder, complex trauma, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and grief. Expert guests also provide listeners with wisdom for their own healing journey. Join Siebert for powerful conversations that highlight the value of preparation, integration, and community in the world of ibogaine healing.

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