Franz Xaver Vollenweider

Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging

University of Zürich


Self and emotion regulation in Meditation and Psychedelic States

Talk date & time:
Sunday 14:00-15:00


The burgeoning interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for the treatment of psychiatric disorders has revived efforts to unravel their psychological and neural mechanism of action. A core feature of the psychedelic experience is the dissolution of self/ego-boundaries, often described as feelings of oneness with the world, which arises sequentially and concomitant with varying changes in emotions, thought processing, and perception. The dissolution of self-boundaries and alterations in emotion processing has been postulated to be central to their therapeutic activity. Notably, many meditation practices aim temporally to reduce self-boundaries which were found on the long run to diminish self-focus and promote lasting benevolent emotions and prosocial behaviors. In this presentation, I will summarize our current understanding of system-based mechanisms that may underlay the psychedelic drug effects on the sense of self and emotion processing, and their potential role for therapeutic long-term effects of psychedelics.


Dr. Franz X. Vollenweider is currently Co-Director of the Center for Psychiatric Research, Director of the Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging Unit, and Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, University of Zurich. He is also the Director of the Heffter Research Center Zürich for Consciousness Studies (HRC-ZH), which he founded in 1998 and incorporated in his research group.

Vollenweider received his MD degree at the University of Zurich. He completed his doctoral thesis in experimental medicine at the Institute of Toxicology of the University and ETH of Zurich, was trained in neurochemistry at the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zurich, and in neuroimaging at the PET Centre of the PSI-ETH. In 1994, he became certified in the specialities of psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Dr. Vollenweider is a leading expert in the areas of cognitive neuroscience and pharmacological models of psychosis and schizophrenia. His work links the area of psychopathology, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, and neuroimaging to study the neurobiology and to develop novel treatments for psychotic and affective disorders. He serves in a variety of advisory and review capacities for the SNF, BAG, Wellcome Trust, the Swiss NMF, and the HRI USA.

Dr. Vollenweider has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers, many of which addressing the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and the mechanisms of action of psychostimulants, hallucinogens, and entactogens in humans. His research is supported by multiple grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Federal Health Office, and the Heffter Research Institute (USA), and by multiple AWARDS from the NARSAD and the Fetzer Research Institute USA. He has received the Achievement Award of the Swiss Society of Psychiatry (1990), the Heffter Research Institute Award (1997), the Götz Prize of the University of Zurich (2000), and the British Association of Psychopharmacology Prize (2002).