Helena Aicher

PhD Student at University of Zurich

Talk :

Ayahuasca & analogues – Effects on the relationship to oneself and others

Date & time :
Saturday 9:30-10:30


Over the last two decades, alongside with the global psychedelic renaissance, ayahuasca use has expanded to the Western world. Relationship aspects seem to play a major role in the use of ayahuasca: The motivation of use, the setting of use, and the subjective effects of the substance. Importantly, affective information processing, empathy, and prosociality are often impaired in psychiatric conditions with severe consequences for everyday life relationships and vice versa. Serotonergic psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, LSD, and also ayahuasca are known to change affective and cognitive information processing profoundly. In patients, empirical research of ayahuasca’s therapeutic effects has evinced impressive and often persistent improvement and alleviation of clinical symptoms in mood disorders (depression, anxiety) and addiction. This presentation will provide some insights into subjective effects of ayahuasca on everyday-life relationships based on large-scale cross-sectional data. Additionally, we will have a look at the experimental study of the modulation of these processes by ayahuasca analogues in controlled study settings.


Helena’s main academic background is in Psychology. During her clinical work at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich, she joined the Department of Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging to study the effects of psychedelics and meditation. In the last years, in the Psychedelic Research and Therapy Development team at the UZH, her research focus is on the neurophysiological and subjective effects of ayahuasca & analogues on therapy-relevant processes, especially prosociality and empathy, as well as the relationship to oneself; and how experiential and contextual factors shape these processes. She finds herself at intersections, aims at bridging science and practice.