Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Researcher Names New Director


Frederick Barrett
Frederick Barrett, Ph.D. Credit: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

The Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research (CPRC) has announced the appointment of Frederick Barrett, Ph.D., as its new director, effective immediately. Barrett replaces Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., who served as the center’s director since its founding in 2019. Griffiths will continue to serve on the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine faculty and as a member of CPRC’s leadership team.

Barrett, who previously served as CPCR’s associate director, is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, with appointments in the Department of Neuroscience and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. A cognitive neuroscientist with training in behavioral pharmacology, Barrett earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of California, Davis, and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in behavioral pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He has been conducting psychedelic research at The Johns Hopkins University since 2013. His research focuses on the psychological and neurological mechanisms underlying the acute subjective and enduring therapeutic effects of psychedelics.

The recipient of the first federally funded human psychedelic research grant from the National Institutes of Health since the 1970s, Barrett has authored or co-authored the first studies in humans characterizing the enduring effects of psilocybin on emotion, cognition and brain function, the acute effects of psilocybin on the claustrum (a brain structure that has been proposed to variously mediate consciousness and cognition), LSD’s effects on the brain’s response to music, and the neural effects of salvinorin A.

Barrett is leading a clinical trial to investigate psilocybin therapy for major depressive disorder and co-occurring alcohol use disorder, and is leading ongoing studies to better understand the psychological, biological and neural mechanisms underlying the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic drugs.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Dr. Barrett to this critically important role as the CPCR’s new director,” said James Potash, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “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,” Potash added. “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.”

In accepting his new position, Barrett said, “I am deeply honored to have been appointed to lead the tremendously talented team of faculty and staff at CPCR. 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.”

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.”

Commenting on CPCR’s change of leadership, David Olson, director of the UC Davis Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics, 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 behavioral 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.”