#507: Dr. Adam Gazzaley, UCSF – Brain Optimization and the Future Of Psychedelic Medicine | Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • “My real goal is to make a huge difference in humanity, in the world.” – Dr. Adam Gazzaley
  • It’s crucial to do research that leaps off the page and enters people lives to make a huge difference – this doesn’t happen within the confines of academia alone, you need a partnership with the private sector
  • In collaboration with a team from LucasArts, scientists created a customized, adaptive video game (NeuroRacer) designed to help with mental cognition and studied via a randomized controlled trial
  • NeuroRacer improved the ability in 60+ year olds to play video games, sustain attention, multi-task and increased their working memory
  • NeuroRacer has since been validated in studies across patients with depression, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, autism
  • Endeavor RX (iteration of NeuroRacer) is the first-ever FDA cleared digital treatment for children (8-12 years old with ADHD), the first digital treatment for ADHD, and first digital treatment for a clinical condition
  • The goal of Neuroscape’s psychedelic division is to fill the gap in knowledge and understand the experience of a guided psychedelic trip in real-time in order to enhance the environment to achieve the desired, positive outcome
  • Neuroscape will use real-time data (everything from EEG to facial expression) to create a closed-loop psychedelic experience to optimize delivery, personalize, target neural mechanisms that need to be improved
  • Psychedelics use the experience as medicine, like the way NeuroRacer and Endeavor RX work – they don’t just depend on the drug, they depend on the context, environment, and experience as a whole
  • “There is so much suffering in the world and we have done an atrocious job of addressing that. If you across the fields of cardiac disease and infectious disease, we’ve done so much better than we have with mental suffering.” – Dr. Adam Gazzaley

Introduction

Dr. Adam Gazzaley, M.D., Ph.D., (@adamgazz) is the David Dolby Distinguished Professor of Neurology, Physiology, and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Gazzaley is a prolific author, founder of novel scientific centers, a patent holder for inventions such as the first video game cleared by the FDA – and so much more.

In this episode of the Tim Ferriss Show, Tim Ferriss and Dr. Adam Gazzaley discuss Dr. Gazzaley’s dedication to advancing the field of psychedelic science and medicine as founder and executive director of Neuroscape, a translational neuroscience center.

Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

NeuroRacer

  • A groundbreaking study published in Nature (pinnacle scientific journal) kicked it all off  – “Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults”
  • In collaboration with a team from LucasArts, scientists created a customized, adaptive video game (NeuroRacer) designed to help with mental cognition and studied via a randomized controlled trial
  • NeuoRacer is actually designed to be boring and unexciting to play to really test efficacy as a tool to improve attention
  • Results: NeuroRacer improved the ability in 60+ year olds to play video games, sustain attention, multi-task, and increased their working memory
  • Changes visible in performance and on a neurological level, evidenced with high-density EEG
  • The study restored some cognitive function to the level of those in their 20s
  • The durability of the effect was seen 6 months-post studied without any boosters or playing game

Uniqueness Of Gazzaley Lab

  • Goal: translate science in the world for impact by understanding the brain and using novel approaches to enhance it and validate approaches
  • Electro-currents can enhance brain function in non-invasive approaches
  • Do research that leaps off the page and enters people lives to make a huge difference – this doesn’t happen within the confines of academia alone
  • Risk-taking is a critical ingredient for success – but it has to be taken in an appropriate and thoughtful way

Akili Interactive: FDA Clearance Of Video Game For Inattention In Children

  • You don’t produce scalable products in academic labs – there needs to be a partnership with the private sector
  • Gazzaley and a team from the video game industry founded Akili Interactive, described as “A prescription digital medicine company combining scientific and clinical rigor with the ingenuity of the tech industry to reinvent medicine.”
  • Akili Interactive video game (Endeavor RX) is essentially the child of NeuroRacer with improved features
  • Goal: move beyond prototype and academic exercise into something that can be used as a medical device that can lead to improvements in attention in medical populations
  • Other research groups have used the Endeavor RX study design and validated results as a clinical tool in autism, depression, ADHD, multiple sclerosis
  • Findings from studies were presented to FDA and approved as class 2 medical device to treat inattention in children (8-12 years old) with ADHD
  • This is establishing and validating a new category of treatment 
  • Endeavor RX is the first-ever FDA cleared digital treatment for children, the first digital treatment for ADHD, and first digital treatment for a clinical condition

What Makes Endeavor RX Useful Across Different Diseases?

  • Attention system networks are so widely distributed in the brain that any insult to the brain that leads to the cognitive deficit will have an associated component of attention deficit
  • The act of focusing involves so many areas in the brain that any degradation leads to deficits in attention, regardless of the specific condition
  • NeuroRacer and Endeavor RX challenge cognitive control at its root because the same networks are involved – even if the disease is not identical

Next Step: Neuroscape Branch Of Psychedelic Research

  • New division within Neuroscape (translational research center at UCSF) to study psychedelics
  • Research mission: use psychedelics as profoundly transformative tools to provide outcomes through experience
  • Psychedelics use the experience as medicine, like the way NeuroRacer and Endeavor RX work – they don’t just depend on the drug, they depend on the context, environment, and experience as a whole
  • The goal of Neuroscape remains the same whether it’s video games or psychedelics: use the power of experience to change the brain
  • Universal agreement in psychedelic space that experience itself is critical to an outcome – but ingredients and environment that lead to favorable outcomes is unknown
  • We need to understand the gap and identify the components and context needed to generate an experience that leads to the desired outcome
  • Goal: use real-time data to create a closed-loop psychedelic experience to optimize delivery, personalize, target neural mechanisms that need to be improved

Novelty Of Neuroscape Psychedelic Research Approach

  • The traditional model of guided psychedelics in a research setting: the patient is laying down, blind-folded, music is playing – and therapist is in the room
  • Problem: we don’t really know what’s going on with participant during a trip
  • We don’t know whether a blindfold and mask are ideal – what about our other senses?
  • Importance of a good psychedelic experience: psychedelics induce neuroplasticity which changes that occur have a greater potential to endure – it’s important to have a good experience to get a beneficial outcome
  • First aim: use technology to understand the state of the person while they go through treatment
    • Use real-time, extensive sensory technology to look across physiology and behavior (everything from facial expression to EEG) to plot the experience landscape of patient
    • We won’t know the detailed contents but will identify the level of arousal, state of stress, attention direction, and awareness
  • Second aim: learn to manipulate levers of the context of setting to optimize the experience on an individual level and achieve the desired outcome
    • What if you could smell a forest as you were seeing it? What if you felt vibrations as you were traveling?
  • Build data-driven tools to allow the practitioner to better help patients

How To Get Involved

  • Share experiences as a practitioner, someone who has used psychedelics, someone who has guided others’ trips through Gazzaley.com
  • Financial donations 
  • UCSF can accept cryptocurrency as funding – email [email protected] for instructions
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Notes By Maryann

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