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10 Tips For Creating A Science Crowdfunding Campaign

Eva Rinaldi/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Eva Rinaldi/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Money’s not always easy to come by, whether that’s for a home, holiday, general life, or scientific research. But hopefully by now you’ve realised that Walacea – the UK’s first science crowdfunding platform – can help you with the latter.

It would be great if you could just launch your campaign page, sit back, relax, and watch the donations pour in. Realistically, though, you need to put some thought and effort into your campaign to make it the success that it has the potential to be. We want your project to come to life as much as you, so we’ve created this handy tip page to help you on your way and make your crowdfunding experience a positive one.

1: Remember Your Audience

One of the biggest mistakes you could make is forgetting who you’re pitching to. Yes, it’s scientific research, but you’re not trying to get a grant from a research council; you’re reaching out to the wider public. You want to get them interested, so don’t put people off by using complex language in your campaign page or posts on social media. If you can’t make people understand what you want to achieve, and why it’s important, then they won’t back it.

Strip your research down to its bare bones, cut out the jargon, and be engaging and enthusiastic. If you don’t come across as excited about your work, then your audience will struggle to be excited with you.

2: Think About Your Network

The public are a huge part of crowdfunding, but don’t forget about the people you already have at your fingertips: your academic network. Fellow academics and researchers will understand the woes of trying to secure research grants, and those working in the field will want to see progression, so you will likely find that this is a good place to gain support. Start putting the word out and see whether the communications department would consider featuring your project in a newsletter or perhaps on the institution’s website.

If you get some negative feedback from academics – don’t worry. Crowdfunding is a relatively new thing, so those who are more set in traditional ways may not like the idea. At the end of the day, you’re doing what you can to bring research that you think is important to fruition, and that’s a good thing.

3: Become Active On Social Media

Don’t shy away from social media: it’s billions of people connected around the world, so make the most of this opportunity. We’ve already discussed the importance of social media in an earlier post, and created handy guides to help you get started, so make sure you read those. But at a glance: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit are great ways for you to reach people and spread the word.

These platforms help things go viral, so start setting up accounts, following interesting and relevant people (journalists, fellow scientists, entrepreneurs etc), and thinking about how best to address your new audience. And keep up with it! If you don’t already have a big following on social media, you need some determination – followers won’t just flock in after a couple of posts; you need to be regularly interacting with people.

4: Create Shareable Content

Engagement is essential when it comes to science, and crowdfunding is no exception. One way you can do this is by creating content that people will want to share with their friends and followers. And now you have hopefully got on board with (at least the idea of) social media, the most basic thing you could do is post on a regular basis on these networks. Keep up with the news and link your research to that, and keep people updated on progress and challenges.

Something we also actively encourage you to do is to make at least one video, starting with one for your campaign page. Digital media is becoming increasingly popular, so you need to keep up with the trend and give people what they want. Maybe you can make fun videos about your work, showing people cool machines or specimens, or detailing some of your experimental disasters! That’s a great way to get people liking both you, and your project.

5: Reach Out To People

Social media is a great way to start engaging with people, but don’t be afraid to send out a few personal emails, too. For instance, it’s worth getting in touch with your institution’s communications officers because they might write a press release for you and send that out to their mailing lists, which would reach a large number of media professionals.

You may also want to look up some science bloggers who have large followings, and pitch your project to them. Flattery will get you far, of course, so tell them how great and interesting their blog is, and explain why you think your research would be appealing to their audience.

6: Encourage Discussion

Discussions and debates not only get people thinking, but they also help promote understanding, both of which are good outcomes for science. A great way to start an online discussion is to use Reddit’s Ask Me Anything. This is where a user will offer up their brains and expertise on a particular subject, in this case you and your research project, and other users can come along and ask questions.

It’s all public, so don’t put people down for asking “silly” questions, or get defensive towards people who may be less enthusiastic. Thank them for their interest and be as honest and open as you can; transparency breeds trust.

7: Aim For A Realistic Funding Goal

When thinking about your campaign, it’s tempting to just ask for the maximum amount needed to carry out your project and hope for the best. But we have actually found that smaller projects tend to be more successful, with the exception of those that have the potential to go viral because of their interest to the public.

If you ask for an unrealistic sum of money, people might be discouraged from donating because they think that the project won’t reach its target. Conversely, if it looks achievable, people will be more likely to dip into their pockets. So think about the minimum you need, because a project that successfully raises a goal of £2,000 looks a lot better than a project that raised only £2,000 of a £10,000 goal, even though the money is the same!

8: Think About Stretch Goals

A great way to keep the money flowing in after you’ve reached your goal is to propose stretch targets, or projects that you could do if you hit another funding milestone. This is also a brilliant way to promote engagement, because if you have a few different options, you could put these out to the public and find out which ones they’re most interested in. This helps donors feel like they’re really part of the research, rather than just a piggy bank.

9: Carefully Consider Your Rewards

Some people are happy to donate to a cause they believe in without getting anything in return, while others might want some bang for their buck. Think about what might appeal to you or your friends if you were donating to a campaign. For instance, for smaller donations, can you send out cool pictures that people could frame? At the other end of the spectrum, can you think of something really enticing and unique? Get personal here and make people feel special. Maybe a field trip to your research camp, or dinner with you and your colleagues.

10: One Last Simple Thing…

If we’ve left you feeling a bit overwhelmed with ideas, here’s an easy one that will take you all of 30 seconds: include your campaign page in your email signature! You probably send a huge number of emails each day, so this is a really simple way to alert people to your project.

Good luck!

Handy Guide: Using LinkedIn and Reddit to Promote Your Crowdfunding Campaign


Like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is a social network, but it has a key difference: it’s aimed at business professionals, rather than anyone and everyone. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good place to promote your project, because it gives you the opportunity to network professionally with other researchers and potential backers/philanthropists who may be interested in pledging, or are involved in similar causes and thus may share your campaign.

So start building your network by creating a personal page and inviting people to connect with you, whether that be colleagues, fellow researchers working in similar or related fields, or media professionals who may be interested in promoting the project. The same rules for the other platform apply: post frequently but don’t spam, and make your posts easy to understand. Make sure to include links to your crowdfunding page and your research so that people can engage with you, and keep your eye out on the news for potential connections with your research that you can use as an excuse to shamelessly promote your own.

Ask Me Anything

While Reddit may have hundreds of millions of users, don’t feel out of the loop if you’ve not heard of it. It’s geared towards news and entertainment, rather than general social networking, but it has a hugely popular science community and an engaging section, or “subreddit” called Ask Me Anything (AMA). This is where a user opens up a particular subject or topic for discussion, inviting other users to ask questions by commenting on the post, which the host then answers. Think of it as like a press conference, but completely online.

AMAs are a really great way to encourage engagement with your research, and for you to engage with the public. Remember, they’re the ones who you want to win over and get behind your project, so be open, honest, and appreciate their interest. Stephen Hawking did an AMA last year (the third-largest in the site’s history), and although you’ll probably never be that popular, it’s demonstrably a great way to get people talking and join those with common interests and goals.

While Reddit may not be the most user-friendly of the networks, they have posted a handy guide on AMAs, and we’re more than happy to help get you going if you choose to crowdfund with us.

Good luck!

P.S., check out our other helpful pages on using Twitter and Facebook.

Handy Guide: Using Twitter to Promote your Crowdfunding Campaign

Esther Vargas/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Esther Vargas/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Like Facebook, Twitter reaches a massive amount of people, with users numbering in the hundreds of millions. A huge difference between the two is that the latter restricts your posts to just 140 characters, so there’s no room for essays on here! That means your posts have to be snappy and grabbing, so make the most of your word limit.

Twitter is all about what’s trending; what’s going on in the news and the world, and what’s popular right now. This is all based on what people are talking, or “tweeting” about. If a particular word or phrase is used a lot, then it’ll go up in popularity and start trending. This is helped by the hashtag function; basically, just shove the “#” symbol in front of a word, or string of words, such as #science, #crowdfunding, #research etc. This allows you to find other people who are also talking about that particular topic, and people who share interests to find you.

Twitter is actually a great hub for scientists and enthusiasts alike, so you’ll easily be able to find people talking about the subject who you might want to follow and tweet your project to. If they like it, they may share it with their followers, which could help it snowball in popularity. Look for scientists, journalists or potential backers who are active users and have a decent number of followers, and start interacting with them. Don’t pester them, but engage in discussion and be positive. If you’re interacting with researchers, feel free to use science speak, but if you’re aiming your tweets at a broader audience, cut out the jargon completely to make your project as accessible and appealing as possible.

Something to think about is also the timing of your tweets. Try to think about when people are most likely to see them – before work, at lunch time, after work and throughout the evening. Studies have shown that the best times at Tweet are around noon, 5-6 p.m. and around 9 p.m., but bear in mind where your audience is based because of timezones. Of course, you might not want to be glued to your phone all the time, and if you’re reaching out to audiences in different timezones, then you don’t exactly want to be losing sleep for the sake of tweeting. But there is a handy tool called Buffer which allows you to schedule your tweets, and best of all, it’s completely free!

Another great function of Twitter is their lists, which are curated groups of Twitter accounts. You can create your own, or join others. Sometimes, people will also add you to lists that they think you’re suited to, such as researchers working in a particular subject area. We’d encourage you to look out for groups that are relevant to your research and your audience, and begin engaging with members, as it’s a great way to reach more people and get them interested in what you’re doing.

Good luck!

Remember to keep a look out for our other pages on using Facebook, LinkedIn and Reddit.

Alzheimer’s Reversed In Mice: What Does This Mean For Us?


Image credit: *Ann Gordon/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

An increasing burden on public health across the globe, Alzheimer’s is an intensely studied disease and promising research often hits the headlines. Just the other day, for instance, a study published in the prestigious journal PNAS kicked up a storm in the media because of the potential implications of the results: that Alzheimer’s could be reversed. 

One of Walacea’s successful crowdfunding campaigns is an Alzheimer’s project, and interestingly there are some links between this research and the recently published study. We therefore decided to catch up with the scientist behind the former, postdoctoral researcher Dr Eloise Mikkonen, to chat about both pieces of research and what we could learn from them, and whether the hype is justified. 

But first things first, what did the new study find? Researchers from Hong Kong and Glasgow universities managed to reverse the memory problems of mice with Alzheimer’s-like disease, in addition to reducing the build-up of toxic clumps of protein, called beta-amyloid plaques, which are characteristic of the condition. 

They achieved this by giving them injections of a molecule called IL-33, a signalling protein produced naturally by the body which plays various important roles in mediating immune system responses. The rationale for testing this out as a potential treatment stems from the fact that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s commonly show lower than normal levels of IL-33, and several different mutations in the gene that makes IL-33 have been linked with Alzheimer’s.  

The team thinks that the injections changed the activity of a type of immune cell called microglia, which are the brain and spinal cord’s primary defence system, boosting their ability to gobble up beta-amyloid and putting them in anti-inflammation mode. That’s an important find, as work by Mikkonen and others has found that inflammation plays a role in the progression of Alzheimer’s, something that she intends to scrutinize further in her crowdfunded research. 

But as is often the case with science, things aren’t quite as black and white as they may first seem. As Mikkonen explains: “Genetic investigations of Alzheimer’s disease have revealed that inflammation plays a role, but it isn’t clear as to how. It could be that some inflammatory factors decrease and others increase, and there needs to be a certain pattern which leads to Alzheimer’s disease. 

“It should be noted that some inflammatory factors are beneficial in certain diseases, whilst being detrimental in others… all in the same body at the same time!”

Mikkonen also points out that mice don’t naturally produce the proteins which result in the characteristic brain lesions seen in Alzheimer’s, so the animals have to be mutated for this kind of study. We should therefore be cautious about jumping to conclusions in humans, a message that the researchers have actually been quite clear about. That said, animals models are incredibly useful tools in medical research, so we shouldn’t dismiss this as irrelevant. 

Another important issue Mikkonen raises is that removing the beta-amyloid plaques could actually release toxic molecules into the brain, and therapies that have attempted to do this before have failed. In addition, her work has shown that these plaques are surprisingly common in non-demented individuals. 

“Does this mean that if they lived long enough, they would eventually develop Alzheimer’s?” Mikkonen ponders. “Or do they have some additional protective factor that we don’t know about that differs from those that succumb to the disease?”

These are questions that she seeks to address in her research, which will involve analysing one of the biggest brain samples in the world, totalling more than 1,300 people. Fewer than 30 of these individuals had memory problems or early stages of dementia, so Mikkonen will look for the presence or absence of brain lesions linked with Alzheimer’s and attempt to identify certain genetic factors or lifestyle choices which could influence the risk of developing them. 

So far, the campaign has exceeded its fundraising goal by more than £1,000. As a result, she has introduced stretch goals which, if met, will allow further rounds of data analysis to look for potential links between disease progression and various factors, like exercise and blood type. Each set of analysis costs £1,000, so do something amazing and dig deep for this brilliant cause! 

Handy Guide: Using Facebook to Promote your Crowdfunding Campaign

Facebook picture

With well over a billion users, Facebook offers you a huge potential audience, and it’s simple to use. If you don’t already have an account, they’re really straightforward to set up. From here, you might want to create a page for your research that you can begin sharing. Don’t go too heavy with information; it’ll put people off. Give people a bit of background about your research and your goals in the about section, and direct them to your institution page for more of the nitty gritty science details. Remember that the majority of the public aren’t science experts, so bombarding people with technical information isn’t going to win them over.

Now you have your page up and running: use it! Ask friends to “Like” it and share it with their friends, while also looking for other science communities on Facebook and posting it there for other science enthusiasts to see and hopefully become interested in. There’s certainly no shortage of science pages, so start interacting in the comments sections, particularly if you see posts that relate to your work.

It’s really important that you strike a balance between spamming Facebook users, and letting the page stagnate. If you post on your page too frequently, people may get irritated and unfollow you. That said, if you don’t post at all, you won’t get people interested. Ideally, you don’t want more than a few posts a day, and they shouldn’t all be the same. Think about posting fun or hard-hitting facts that relate to your project, updates on progress, and links to any media coverage you’ve received. Encourage discussion, don’t ignore comments and don’t get angry at people who don’t share the same opinion as you.

Good luck!

Remember to keep a look out for our other pages on using Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit.

Why Social Media Is Key To A Successful Crowdfunding Project


Image credit: Computer problems/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

So you’re thinking about crowdfunding, or have just launched a campaign. Great! But what next? In an ideal world, you could sit back and watch the pennies flowing in after pushing “go,” but to have the best chances of success, you need to shout out to the world about your project and reach as many people as you can. The best way to do that is through social media and, while not an effortless endeavour, it doesn’t require much of your time, and it’s easy to get to grips with.

If you’re new to social media, or find the idea completely daunting; don’t worry. This series of posts will help you get started and give you the tips you need to get your voice heard.

Why Bother With Social Media?

Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn connect not millions, but billions of people across the globe. According to a report from We Are Social, last year there were more than two billion social media users worldwide, with the number of active accounts representing almost 30% of the global population. That’s a huge, accessible network at your fingertips, so don’t take it for granted: tap into it.

Before you dismiss social media as merely a vessel for people to share photos of their dogs and gossip about celebrities, it also has a huge place in the professional world, helping businesses boost their presence, promote products, monitor and evaluate progress, and engage with target audiences. Companies recognise this and many will have their own social media managers and strategists as a result.

Crowdfunding is no different: social media helps raise awareness of both the issue and the solution (your research), connects likeminded people, and gets the public engaged and learning about science. All of those mean more visibility for your research and, as a result, better chances of reaching your fundraising goal.

If your project has the potential to “go viral,” don’t expect journalists to do all the leg work for you: their primary interests tend to lie within the research itself, not how it is being funded, so good publicity in the media doesn’t necessarily mean more pledges. If you skimmed a newspaper article on the go which mentioned how to donate to a project, would you go to the effort of looking it up yourself? This is another reason that a presence in social media is essential.

Getting Started

There are a huge number of social media sites, so you need to choose the one, or ones, which are best for you and will help get you the exposure you need. They all work in different ways but, ultimately, they have common goals. That said, the audiences do differ slightly, so you’ll want to take this into consideration when you’re thinking about who you’re pitching your project to.

The three main players are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, with Pinterest, Google+ and Tumblr close behind in terms of users, but we’re going to focus on the first three, and introduce you to Reddit’s Ask Me Anything. So make sure you follow our blog page for these! If you have any ideas from personal experience that you’d like to share so specific questions, we’d love to hear from you! So feel free to post suggestions/questions below in the comments section. 

Evolutionary education: An approach set in stone?

Museum Front

  • Earth Science teachers need help in finding digital resources for palaeontology lessons
  • As a solution, a new educational website will bring together the digital research catalogues of museums worldwide
  • The innovative project will create a virtual museum to display digital fossils
  • This online museum will appear and function like a computer game

In a bid to help teach pupils about the evolution of life on Earth, a pioneering new project is collating digital versions of fossils from all around the world, displaying them in an interactive and informative online “computer game museum.”

The Virtual Natural History Museum, a project which is being led by a team of palaeontology experts at the University of Bristol, will provide a unique resource to teachers – offering digital access to specimens rarely seen outside of academia.

Its creation follows a request from the UK’s Earth Sciences Teachers’ Association, which asked professional palaeontologists for help in collecting multimedia resources to help illustrate their lessons.

The request was picked up by Palaeocast, a palaeontology podcast operating out of the University of Bristol. They’ve attracted funding from The Palaeontological Association and the Geologists’ Association and are crowdfunding to cover the remaining costs.

PhD student and show founder Dave Marshall said: “We deal with palaeontological multimedia, so when we first saw the letter from the teachers, we knew there was something Palaeocast could do to help. We conceived a website that collates the fossil multimedia already available online and presents it under relevant points of the national curriculum.”

This website will primarily rely on the online research catalogues that museums produce for academics, bringing them together in an easily-accessible way.

Dave explained: “Many museums have digitised large parts of their collections and made them available to the scientific community. Unfortunately, they don’t publicise these catalogues to the public, nor are they presented with any sort of engaging interface; they’re just a gallery of specimen numbers and pictures.

“We wanted our website to be more than points from the national curriculum with pictures underneath, so we asked ourselves, what’s the best way to display fossils? The answer is of course a museum. We’re therefore building a digital museum for these digital fossils, putting the world’s fossil collections into the hands of teachers, students and anyone with access to a computer.”

The user-interface of this virtual museum is set to appear and function exactly like a computer game; allowing users to explore the collections using an avatar, just as you would do in real life.

While produced for a specific educational purpose, the Virtual Natural History Museum will allow for whole collections to be publically displayed for the first time.

The fossil collections of the National Geological Repository are the second-largest in the UK, but they have no public exhibition. Even large museums, such as the Natural History Museum in London, only display a fraction of their specimens.

The Virtual Natural History Museum will be able to provide a public front for those museums without displays and offers the option to exhibit fragile specimens without them needing to leave the collection stores.

The project has already been supported by numerous museums as well as educational and academic associations, including the Earth Science Teachers’ Association and the National Geological Repository.

Please support generously on the Walacea crowdfunding page.

The much anticipated results of the LSD Brain Imaging Study

LSD brain images

This is a staggering image illustrating how LSD affects brain activity. The brain on the left is placebo and on the right under the influence of LSD.

When Albert Hofmann first created LSD on his lab bench back in 1938, little did he know that he had one of the most powerful psychoactive substances known to man in his hands, one that continues to intrigue and beguile us almost 80 years on. While its profound psychedelic effects are no secret, the underlying mechanisms of action on the brain and consciousness have eluded scientists. Now, thanks to new research partly funded through Walacea, we are finally beginning to unravel these mysteries.

Published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the investigation was actually the world’s first study to look at the human brain on LSD. While the drug may have been around for a long time, unfortunately its unscientific and unjustified classification as a Schedule 1 drug has greatly hindered research with LSD for half a century.

In 2010, a prominent paper published in the Lancet ranked LSD as the third least harmful of the 20 investigated, with alcohol sitting comfortably at the other end of the spectrum. Not only that, but early clinical studies suggested its ability to increase openness could have therapeutic uses in many mental health conditions, such as depression and addiction. Yet its label as a Schedule 1 drug has meant that research on LSD has been near impossible to gain approval for, or funding.

With crowdfunding increasingly recognised as a way for scientists to be able to carry out the research that they, and the public, are passionate about, the team behind the study joined up with Walacea to reach out to the masses and secure the money they needed to make this study happen. And it’s been a huge success.

After launching at the beginning of March last year, in just over a month the project received more than twice its £25,000 goal, raising a staggering £53,390. In addition, the coverage in the media was overwhelming, reaching audiences all across the globe. Although pledgers received some enticing perks, such as tickets to science seminars or invitations to dinner with the researchers, now it’s time for the real return we have all been waiting for: the results.

“This is a very proud day for us, it’s taken 10 years to achieve this and it’s a very special day,” said Robin Carhartt-Harris at the beginning of his presentation about the findings of the study. When describing the study, Prof Nutt said: “This is the most significant research I have ever done.” Both emphasised how they hope that this research will open up the floodgates for future research into psychedelics and potential medical interventions.

Headed by Imperial College London’s Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, in collaboration with the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme, co-directed by Amanda Feilding and Prof David Nutt, the study involved 20 participants who were either given a placebo injection of salt water or a moderate dose of LSD on two separate days. Volunteers then had their brains scanned using three imaging techniques, which all showed and measured something different: blood flow, connections within and between networks, and brain wave patterns.

Alongside inducing visual hallucinations and profound alterations in consciousness in all participants, LSD was found to exert some fascinating effects on the brain. Certain brain networks that are normally well-connected became destabilized, resulting in a loss of integrity within these networks. In particular, decreased stability within a network called the Default Mode Network, which is active when we’re resting, was strongly linked with self-reported ego dissolution, or the loss of self-identity, and a more fluid state of consciousness.

“Somehow, I was able to comprehend what oneness is,” said one participant. “I had a sense of being inside myself and outside of myself at the same time. I definitely felt removed in some way from what I would usually describe as ‘my self,’” another described.

Alongside these pronounced effects within brain networks, the researchers found that LSD also caused an increase in global integration, with heightened connectivity between distinct brain networks becoming strikingly apparent. In other words, the brain seemed to be functioning in a much freer, more unified manner, something that also correlated with ego-dissolution.

“You could never have predicted the results that we found,” said Prof Nutt at a seminar on the results. “But they make sense.”

Last, but certainly not least, the team gained a fascinating insight into how the drug produces visual hallucinations. Normally, the brain’s primary visual cortex, the region that receives information from our eyes, only “talks” to other areas associated with vision, but upon taking LSD this area “exploded” and began communicating with many other distinct regions. This expansion of visual processing was linked with the degree of complex imagery seen, meaning images other than geometric shapes and flashes, like people and intricate scenes. On top of that, blood flow was boosted to regions involved in vision, despite the fact that their eyes were closed the entire time.

“We’re just scratching the surface,” said Dr Carhart-Harris. “We’re only beginning to understand the effects of psychedelics and their value. Now, we need to fine tune our questions. What is the ego? Can psychedelics produce insight? How? Is the psychedelic state like the dream state?”

Clearly there is much work to be done, but hopefully this work has opened the floodgates for research on psychedelics, and we’re excited to see how the scientific journey unfolds.

Thank you for your support in helping make this amazing research come to life. Be sure to keep up with the Walacea page to find out what other exciting science projects you can back and become a part of! Remember science will happen faster if you support it!

Scientists Breaking The Mould!

We have huge admiration for scientists who step outside the box and are brave enough to ask research questions that others may think are widely unrealistic and too scared to propose.

One such question that Prof Nutt, The Beckley Foundation and their team asked is “Can Magic Mushrooms Treat Depression?” What a research question and what an eyebrow raiser!! Or perhaps you may like Dr Ede Frecska question “Can DMT save lives” or Dr Velasco and Dr Sepulveda question “Can cannabis help fight cancer?”…We are impressed by their bravery to ask these questions and we are intrigued by the answers they find!

Magic Mushrooms and Depression

We learnt a lot more about this research at the recent LSD research backers seminar hosted by the Beckley Foundation.  Mendal Kaelen, a research fellow at Imperial College spoke about his research on psilocybin, music therapy and depression.  The idea of treating depression with magic mushrooms I’m sure for many conjures up images of people laughing high on a drug, however the mechanism of action of the therapy is quite different to this.

Yes, the therapeutic effect stems from how the drug alters consciousness but it is not the hysterical laughter that magic mushrooms are associated with that elevates the depression.  It goes much deeper than that. The proposed mechanism relates to a rewiring of the brain whereby the drug enables the patient to see whatever is troubling them from a new perspective giving them a renewed vision on how to tackle their troubles.

Mendel’s research is also looking at the influence of music, he has already found that certain melodies in combination with magic mushrooms lead to an enhanced emotional response which has the potential to be therapeutically valuable, however there is still a way to go before magic mushrooms in combination with particular sound tracks can be prescribed to the millions of people globally suffering from depression.

Could DMT save lives?

Dr Ede Frecska, a pioneer in DMT research

Now this is another very bold question.   DMT is even more underground than LSD in the world of psychedelic drugs, many people have never even heard of it whilst others may have heard of it through learning about ayahuasca and Amazonian spiritual retreats. Dr Ede Frecska has posed the question “Can DMT play a protective role in the brain”?  Considering this drug is illegal for recreational use and is a schedule 1 drug, therefore classed as having no medicinal use, if his theory is correct it could be huge!

Ede’s theory is that the DMT acts as a powerful anti-oxidant that the brain can utilise when under stress. There is research to suggest that DMT may play a role in birth and death.  It is proposed that it can be made in the lungs and rapidly transported to the brain when needed.  There are also parallels between the psychedelic experiences people have when they take DMT recreationally and the visions people experience when they are close to death.  Whether this is coincidence or not, Ede’s research will soon find out! You can support his research here. 

Can Cannabis Effectively Fight Glioma

Crowdfunding Science

Dr Guillermo Velasco and Dr Juan Sepulveda

Other scientists we are working with who is breaking the mould are Madrid scientists Dr Guillermo Velasco and Dr Juan Sepulveda.  The Madrid team were the scientist to discover the anti cancer activities of cannabinoids.  By chance, they decided to see what happened if they added cannabinoids to cancer cells and they found that they were effective at fighting Glioma Initiating Cells which are responsible for one of the most aggressive types of brain tumour, Glioma.

We are not sure if the huge amount of hype around cannabis and cancer stems from this research or whether it happened independently.  Regardless of how it happened, we really want to get to the bottom of it.  Two people close to us are using cannabis oil to treat their cancer in conjunction with other therapies.   It is unfortunate that they not only have to break the law to receive this treatment, they also cannot legally be monitored or receive medical advice on the most effective dose to take. Simply because no clinical trials have been completed. Also, at a price of around £50 this is not cheap and cannot be claimed from the NHS.

We are however, raising funds for a clinical trial for cannabis and cancer.  We have given it a long timeline as there is a lot of money to raise and we hope that by promoting the campaign over a long period we may just get there!

Interview with Dr Ede Frecska

Dr Ede Frecska is a Hungarian scientist and Psychiatrist who is fascinated by DMT and believes that it could have groundbreaking medicinal applications that could save lives…more

Ede attended the recent DMT Symposium at Tyringham Hall where leading scientists and thought leaders with a great fascination in the DMT molecule met last month.  We asked him about the event and also what some of his beliefs are about the DMT molecule. Enjoy!

Where is DMT found?

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is abundant in the plant kingdom, countless plant species’ specimens have DMT in significant amount and ethnobotanists suppose that DMT is a very ancient compound in nature. A metabolite of DMT, indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) is the most common, naturally-occurring, plant hormone of the auxin class. Animals can synthetise DMT under special circumstances (and pee out as IAA). Indolethylamine-N-methyltransferase (INMT) the synthesizing enzyme of DMT can be found with the highest levels in the lungs, thyroid, and adrenal gland. Intermediate levels are found in placenta, skeletal muscle, heart, small intestine, stomach, pancreas, and lymph nodes. Contrary to the commonly held view, it is not the pineal gland which can synthetise DMT in large amount. Nevertheless, the presence of DMT in the pineal gland was proved in 2013.

What is a psychonaut?

Wikipedia hits this nail on the head:  “psychonaut is a sailor of the soul” or navigator of our inner realms. While the term refers to a methodology for describing and explaining the subjective effects of altered states of consciousness, including those induced by both meditation or mind-altering substances, usually its use refers to the latter (psychedelic journeys).

What DMT research is currently underway and why is it exciting?

In our 2013 paper we marshalled evidence which support the assumption for DMT being a chemical messenger of tissue reparation in general. In particular that involves neuroregenerative, neuroprotective, and neurogenic effects. Especially, it can help in (and after) acute cases when we are short of oxygen (at birth or at death). Supposedly, purple babies (those who got the umbilical cord around their neck), people in clinical death undergoing CPR can benefit from the release of DMT. The positive anecdotal reports of regular ayahuasca ceremonies on healing can be interpreted so, that DMT may work against chronic oxidative stress as well. There is an emerging concept that almost all of the illnesses of civilization has an oxidative stress component on the cellular level. Our 2014 paper provided experimental support for an anti-inflammatory effect of DMT and 5Meo-DMT. That is different from the action of aspirin, NSAIDs and corticosteroids – and with much less physical side effects. Our ongoing research which we are crowdfunding through Walacea is investigating whether DMT acts as an indirect antioxidant. An indirect antioxidant is millions of times more effective than a direct one like vitamin C or vitamin E at reducing oxidative stress.  If our predictions are correct and DMT is an effecting antioxidant it could be of huge clinical value in scenarios where the brain undergoes oxidative stress such as during a stroke or cardiac arrest.

What was the consensus from researcher at the conference on DMT leading interspecies communication and dialogue with the divine?

The best consensus wasn’t on the field of facts and ideas, but it was felt within the attitude of the participants: this subset of the best minds of DMT research – selected for the Tyringham symposium – exhibited humble, modest behavior filled with humor and self-irony. There was no presence of “ego battle” or “testosterone festival” occasionally seen on typical scientific meetings.

The author of this blog (E.F.) made the firm statement that interspecies communications must work at a different, unique channel of accessing knowledge, and proposed that contrary to the mainstream tenet, there is information which reaches the brain bypassing the sensory organs. Other lecturers at Tyringham haven’t gone so far.

At the end of Rick Strassman’s presentation on the prophetical state of consciousness some people at Tyringham argued that the Bible is only a historical text of the Jewish people. IMO that is a narrow view. Many aspects of it points into the direction that divination was involved in the birth of the scriptures. Divination – when we receive nonlocal valid information (according to my model) – is usually accompanied by paranormal phenomena, synchronicities, “anomalies” (as Stan Grof used to say it).

What are your thoughts on the above?

In agreement with the wisdom traditions, the teachings of mystical lore (i.e. kabbalah, sufi, etc.) I suppose that there are two foundations of knowledge (which are ultimately the One). One way is learning by observation from the outside (this is the rational, scientific way) and the second is learning by observation from the inside (the mystical, shamanic, visionary approach). Communications with plants may occur on the second channel, which I denote as direct-intuitive (direct, because it bypasses the senses) contrasted to the perceptual-cognitive method, the only one sanctioned by Western academic circles.

I offered a tentative physical background for the second one: nonlocal effects with quantum correlations (entanglements). On the other hand, local effects i.e., energy exchange in space-time (involving the sensory organs) serve as foundation of the first one. Last weekend I watched again the Avatar (2009) movie with my children. What was described there as interspecies communication, I have written about in our 2007 book with Rick Strassman and Luis Luna entitled „Inner Paths to Outer Space”. I emphasized, that everything encountered by the perceptual-cognitive (objective) is lifeless and dumb, but every entity met in the direct-intuitive realm is alive and conscious. Perhaps, because our own consciousness can only be experienced by the direct manner and not the perceptual one.

How does DMT come into this picture?

DMT can open this second door of perception, by decreasing the dominance of the perceptual-cognitive mode. Not the only one though, which can accomplish this: yoga meditation, Zen koans, the physical stress of spirit quests, initiation rituals (Lakota Sioux Sun Dance, for example) can reach the same result as well: breaking down the “profane” sensibility and opening up “sacred” realms, the “Mystical Beyond”. The name of the latter in my terms: nonlocal realms.

Do you believe that a plant can teach us?

Absolutely! And I mean it literally, not just on a metaphorical level, what most of the sympathizing scholars suggest and are cautious not going further. I give credit to the Amazonian people: if we are sensitive enough (can tune into the second channel) we can get veridicable (“true”) information from plants. Ayahuasca visions are powerful means to learn about other plants – this is the source of knowledge of many curanderos.

What are your thoughts on DMT as a chemical messenger from extraterrestrial civilisations?

Not “from”. Rather “for”. As I proposed above, DMT opens the nonlocal channel for the “Contact”. In my presentation at Tyringham I described the entities of these realms as quasi-autonomous. Autonomous, because they are more than hallucinations (these tricksters can provide “true” info, if they are not in their trickery mood). Quasi, because your cosmology, belief system, cultural background shapes, morphs the way they are presenting themselves.  What is extraterrestrial being for us can be spirit or ancestral soul for a representative of an aboriginal culture.  If you follow Jungian psychoanalysis, you would say, they are coming from the inside not form the outside (like spirits). A Buddhist would say: inside or outside, doesn’t matter since eventually it is you. In another chapter in Inner Paths to Outer Space I discussed that the Sumarian demigods, the Anunnakis were very possibly visioned entities. They have contacted us and were teaching us transdimensionally, not by rocket ships (as Zacharia Sitchin supposed).

What is the Amazonian perspective on invisible entities?

The aboriginal view: spirits or ancestors. Usually belonging to the invisible world outside. The split of the world into natural and supernatural is the invention of the Western mind. For native people everything is natural, belonging either to the visible or the invisible world.

What have the most recent scientific publications around DMT revealed about the molecule?

If you are asking me, I come up with the pretentious response: our publications suggest a somatophysiological (making our body healthy) role for DMT instead of the commonly held mainstream view as psychopathological (making our mind sick). Steve Barker’s group has detected DMT in the pineal gland. Until that time it was just a conjecture, well-founded speculation.

You can back Dr Frecska’s research on through this link

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