Science of Memory

Master of Science in Applied Health Sciences Informatics – Online Program

Science of Memory | Johns Hopkins Medicine

CAHIIM Degree Accreditation Pending

Applications for the 2020-2021 academic year will be accepted from September 1, 2019 through March 15, 2020. (The application is made available through the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine here.)

If you are interested in taking individual courses offered by our Division under special student status, please contact Kersti Winny at  or 410-502-3768.

About the Program:

This 15-36 month masters degree program prepares students for informatics leadership positions in clinical, public health, and scientific settings.

Using both CAHIIM and AMIA guidelines, we presume that the health sciences informatician should be capable of developing or leading innovative applications of information technology and information systems that address biological, clinical, or public health priorities.

Please note that this is a part time online program which can be completed in 15-36 months.

Click here to see program curriculum.

Application Requirements

Eligible students —

  • Hold a terminal degree (Master's or doctorate) in a relevant area of healthcare, or
  • Hold a bachelor's degree in a relevant area of study, plus 5 years of related work experience, or
  • Hold a bachelor's degree in a relevant area of study and submit GRE scores with their application.

The Admissions Committee considers the undergraduate and/or graduate academic record, statement of purpose, professional experience, letters of recommendation, results of Graduate Record Examinations (where required), and overall motivation of the individual to pursue graduate studies. Target average GPA is 3.5 or above (on a 4.0 scale).

Relevant areas of study or employment include but are not limited to medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, nursing, ancillary therapies, librarianship, biomedical basic science, computer science, information science, business and information technology. Those with non-healthcare educational backgrounds are expected to have worked in healthcare for a number of years. Preferred skills include demonstrated abilities at leadership and in organizational-level thinking.

The Application Process

Applications for the class entering in 2020 will be accepted starting in September 2019. (The application is made available through this Johns Hopkins School of Medicine link.)

The supporting documents listed below must be received by the SOM admissions office by March 15, 2020, Office of Graduate Student Affairs, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1830 E. Monument Street, Suite 620, Baltimore, MD 21287. Applications will not be reviewed until they are complete and we have all supporting letters and documentation.

Required documents for application include:

  • Curriculum vitae
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official transcript of school record
  • Certification of terminal degree
  • Personal statement
  • Optional: Other

Personal Interview

Short listed candidates will be invited to an onsite or phone interview with the Program Director and other appropriate members of faculty to discuss career goals and assess the applicant's scholastic abilities and personal qualities.


Applicants will be notified of admissions decisions by April 1, 2020.

It is the policy of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to require criminal background investigations on prospective students in any professional or graduate program at the School of Medicine, interns, residents and clinical fellows in any Graduate Medical Education program sponsored by Johns Hopkins, and other clinical and research postdoctoral fellows at the School of Medicine.

The Johns Hopkins University and The Johns Hopkins Health System do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, age, disability or veteran status in any student program or activity administered by the university or with regard to admissions or employment. Defense Department discrimination in ROTC programs on the basis of sexual orientation conflicts with this university policy. The university is committed to encouraging a change in the Defense Department policy.

Important Transcript Information

Transcripts can be uploaded to the online application for review. Official transcripts will be required for applicants who receive an offer or accept an offer of admission. Official transcripts from accepted applicants should be directed to the Office of Graduate Student Affairs and

A Note to Foreign Applicants

DHSI is interested in attracting talented students from other countries to our program. However, there are some practical issues that you should be aware of before applying.

DHSI does not currently have the ability to offer any financial support to students who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Final admission to the program requires documentation that the appropriate financial resources are available.

Please refer to the School of Medicine website for details of these requirements.

We highly recommend that foreign applicants seek other possible means of supporting the cost of graduate study. Support could come from: (a) a scholarship from your government or (b) from a “special” foundation award.

In your application, please discuss the possibility of obtaining support from one of these sources. We highly recommend that you review the NAFSA: Association of International Educators website at

NAFSA does not offer financial assistance, but will offer some suggestions to help your search for financial aid for study in the United States.

(The application is made available through this Johns Hopkins School of Medicine link.)

For more information about our curriculum and activities please visit the Applied Masters Online Curriculum page or contact the Program Coordinator.

Cost of Attendance for the Online Applied MS.

Online students are charged per credit and pay at the time of course registration. The new course registration site for School of Medicine courses will be available in July, 2019. The cost per credit for 2019-20 is $1162  per credit. This year matriculated students will receive a tuition subsidy of $246 per credit.

Part-time students who qualify for financial aid as citizens or permanent residents of the United States must also be registered for a minimum of 5 credits combined in quarter 1 and quarter 2, and a minimum of 5 credits combined in quarter 3 and quarter 4.

See this page for Financial Aid information:

Click here to see program curriculum.


Date for withdrawal from a masters or certificate program with full refund is September 13, 2019, two weeks from start of classes. Students dropping a course should do so by the add/drop dates listed below to be qualified for a full refund.

Quarter 1 September 3 – October 25, 2019 Drop date – September 13, 2019
Quarter 2 October 28 – December 20, 2019 Drop date – November 10, 2019
Quarter 3 January 21 – March 13, 2020 Drop date – January 31, 2020
Quarter 4 March 23 – May 15, 2020 Drop date – April 3, 2020
Summer July 1 – August 23, 2020 Drop date – July 12, 2020

State Authorization of Distance Education:…


” . . . I have been in Baltimore seeing Johns Hopkins, & [am] more than delighted. It is the university of the future & when the Med School is organized all others will be distanced in the country.”

– Sir William Osler writing to his friend John Mullen, November 8, 1886

When Baltimore merchant banker Johns Hopkins died in 1873, he left $7,000,000 to establish a new university and hospital, with a medical school to unite them. He had envisioned a university on a German model, where the students would be highly qualified, and the faculty would not only teach but carry on research and train graduate students in their fields.

The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, but construction of the hospital and medical school was repeatedly delayed because their endowments were tied to poorly performing investments. When the hospital opened in 1889, some of the medical school faculty had been recruited, but there was no way to pay them.

Osler was appointed Physician in Chief of the hospital (with a salary) and Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine (without a salary). For the first year, Osler worked with the Hopkins leadership, among them John Shaw Billings, director of the Surgeon General's Library, and pathologist William Welch, to fill other hospital and medical school positions.

Their choices included William Halsted as head of surgery, and Howard Kelly as head of the gynecological services. Meanwhile, the hospital recruited many young medical residents, and the first faculty members were doing post-graduate teaching and mentoring for several years before the medical school opened.

These first “Hopkins men” enjoyed much camaraderie, and, led by Osler, founded a journal club, a medical society, and a historical club, plus the Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin and the Johns Hopkins Hospital Reports.

In 1890, with the medical school opening delayed and private practice slow, Osler began writing a medical textbook, The Principles and Practice of Medicine.

Published in 1892, it was a huge success and eventually ran through sixteen editions (Osler did the first seven, and the book royalties were a major part of his income for the rest of his life).

Writing in a clear, literary style, Osler discussed symptoms, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, etiology, and morbid anatomy for thirty infectious diseases and a wide range of other disorders.

His descriptions incorporated the latest scientific research–especially germ theory–but also drew heavily on his own large collection of case studies and, often, his historical knowledge.

Although rapid advances in medical knowledge and therapeutics during the next century would radically change most aspects of clinical practice, Osler's astute “natural histories” of many diseases retained their value and even became “classics.” With its straightforward style and emphasis on medical science, The Principles and Practice of Medicine also inspired Rockefeller advisor Frederick T. Gates to recommend the establishment of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, which opened in 1901.

Soon after the textbook was published, Osler married Grace Revere Gross, an old friend from his Philadelphia days. She was a great-granddaughter of Paul Revere, and widow of Dr. Samuel W. Gross. The couple had two children: the first son, born in 1893, died soon after birth.

The second, Edward Revere, born December 28, 1895 survived, but would be killed in World War I at the age of twenty-two.

The Oslers moved into a large house on West Franklin Street where, with Grace's competent management, they frequently hosted Hopkins colleagues and students, as well as visiting relatives, friends, and physicians.

The Johns Hopkins Medical School finally opened in 1893.

It was a model of modern medical education: entering students had to have an undergraduate degree and a working knowledge of French and German; the medical program was four years long, with the first two years spent largely in pre-clinical laboratory science courses; the faculty was recruited from the best and brightest in the United States and abroad, rather than from the local medical community. And, remarkably, it was the first American medical school that admitted women on the same basis as men. A committee of wealthy women, notably Mary Elizabeth Garrett, had raised the funds needed to open the school, and the admission of women was one of the conditions of their bequest.

The outstanding innovation at “the Hopkins,” however, was the clinical teaching system developed by Osler.

Beginning in their third year, medical students began learning at the bedside, and participated continuously in the care of real patients in the medical, surgical, obstetrical, and gynecological departments of the hospital.

Supervised by the medical and surgical resident physicians, third year students began working with patients in the dispensary (outpatient clinic), taking histories of new patients and following assigned cases.

They received ongoing instruction in examination, diagnosis, and clinical microscopy, and attended weekly case discussions. In the fourth year clerkships, students worked in the hospital wards, again under the supervision of senior residents.

Each clerk was assigned five or six patients to attend during their rotation through each hospital department. They took histories, did initial examinations, kept the daily records, took and examined blood and urine samples, and learned to dress wounds. In surgical clerkships, they assisted with operations.

The clerks followed their patients until discharge; if a patient died, students often helped with the autopsy. Throughout this apprenticeship, clerks met several times each week with an attending faculty physician, to discuss cases, and attended weekly general clinics where all the cases could be discussed and compared. At Johns Hopkins, the hospital essentially became the medical school and the patients became the students' texts. Nowhere else in America was such experience available to medical students.

Osler's ward rounds with his students, conducted three days each week, became legendary. He would examine each patient, quiz the clerks and residents intently about diseases and treatments, and often send them to the library to learn more. Yet he had an informal style that put both patients and students at ease.

And as Henry Christian (later dean of medicine at Harvard) recalled, “His criticisms of students and their work were incisive and unforgettable, but never harsh or unkindly; they inspired respect and affection, never fear.

” Osler often surprised–and impressed–students by using his own clinical mistakes as teaching examples.

Osler had never forgotten the kind and generous mentoring he received in his student years; as a teacher he wise combined high expectations with a genial support of his students.

On Saturday evenings a few students were always invited to dinner, and more came later for coffee and hours of discussion of medicine and medical history. Osler also allowed senior students and residents free use of his personal library.

While he was well-known for his diagnostic acumen, his broad knowledge, and his prodigious publishing output, Osler was perhaps loved most and remembered best for this cheerful and consistent generosity.

During his Hopkins years, Osler continued to investigate clinical problems such as angina, aneurysm, typhoid fever, thyroid deficiency (myxedema), and malaria.

He was especially interested in typhoid, a disease that flourished in areas with poor sanitation and killed hundreds of Baltimoreans each year.

In 1898, he also led one of the first efforts to survey the incidence of tuberculosis in Baltimore by following up on patients seen at the Hopkins hospital and outpatient dispensary, and to suggest measures to control its spread.

The surveys were initially done by several women medical students; later a staff of public health nurses took on these duties. Osler was a founding member of the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis and helped organize the first international tuberculosis conference.

As Osler became known as America's best diagnostician, he was in great demand for consultations and received requests from all over the country. These were often lucrative, but the frequent traveling, added to his other duties and projects, left him exhausted. In modern terms, he was suffering from “burnout.” He began to think about scaling back his activities or even retiring.

When Oxford University offered him the Regius Professorship of Medicine in 1904, it seemed a perfect solution. His American colleagues, especially those at Johns Hopkins, were surprised and even depressed by his decision to leave. Osler spent much of his last six months in America attending dinners in his honor and speaking at various graduation ceremonies.

At one of these (Johns Hopkins, February 1905) he gave an address in which he stated his belief that a man's best work was done before he was forty years old, and that by age sixty, he should retire. He jokingly referred to Anthony Trollope's story “The Fixed Period” with its idea that men should be put to sleep at the age of sixty.

Osler was trying to explain why he himself was retiring at what seemed the peak of his importance. Journalists, however, took his remarks completely context, announcing that the eminent Dr. Osler suggested euthanizing old people. For the next several months, Osler received a barrage of angry letters from those offended by reports of his speech.

“The Fixed Period” speech prompted many jokes and cartoons, and the coining of the term “Oslerize” to mean euthanasia.


New Johns Hopkins research center tests psychedelics to treat mental health

Science of Memory | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins Medicine is launching a new psychedelic research center where scientists will test the potential of “magic mushrooms” and other drugs to treat some of the toughest mental health and addiction challenges.

The center is believed to be the first center in the United States and the largest in the world to focus on drugs still better known as symbols of 1960s counterculture than serious medicine.

The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore is being funded by a $17 million donation from a group of private donors. Because federal funding cannot be used for such research, the center needs private support.

The center’s research will focus on applications of the drugs for treating opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and depression, among other diseases.

“Psychedelics are a fascinating class of compounds,” said Roland Griffiths, the center’s director and a professor of behavioral biology in the Hopkins School of Medicine.

“They produce unique and profound change in consciousness,” he said. “The center will allow us to expand on research to develop new treatments for a wide variety of psychiatric disorders. And it will allow us to extend on past research in healthy people to improve their sense of well being.”

“Johns Hopkins is deeply committed to exploring innovative treatments for our patients,” Paul B. Rothman, chief executive of Johns Hopkins Medicine and dean of the medical school’s faculty, said in a statement. “Our scientists have shown that psychedelics have real potential as medicine, and this new center will help us explore that potential.”

Psilocybin and MDMA are illegal drugs in the United States classified by the federal government along with heroin and cocaine. Laws relating to salvia vary by state, but it’s illegal in most states.

But researchers at Hopkins and elsewhere have said such drugs could help in areas of pain, addiction and brain disorders.

The center is being funded by the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and philanthropists who include Tim Ferriss, an author and technology investor; Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress; Blake Mycoskie, founder of the shoe company TOMS; and Craig Nerenberg, an investor.

Ferriss said his interest in the drugs is personal. There is depression and brain disease among family members, and a good friend died of a drug overdose. He said his contribution, between $2 million and $3 million, is the largest investment he has made in a corporate or nonprofit endeavor.

He said he was hoping to “affect the timeline” of federal regulatory approvals for psychedelic drugs, though he opposed over-the-counter uses.

“Good science takes time,” he said, adding that he wanted to support “unlocking the full potential of productive teams.”

The center will look at how psychedelics affect behavior, brain function, learning and memory, the brain’s biology and mood.

The Hopkins researchers said they understood the risks and dangers of using psychedelic drugs that they said were not addictive but could be abused. They said they could control for potential abuse or bad outcomes, such as long-term effects of the drug’s use on those with undiagnosed mental health disorders, in a laboratory setting where people and drugs are carefully screened.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says there are many potential short- and long-term harms from hallucinogens. Users can see, hear and feel things that don’t exist, experiences that can be unpleasant, known as a “bad trip.”

Users can suffer increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, intensified feelings, loss of appetite, sleep problems, excessive sweating and panic, though others may have intense spiritual experiences and feelings of relaxation. Users also can be a danger if they drive.

Over time, according to the drug abuse institute, users can suffer persistent psychosis, visual disturbances, disorganized thinking, paranoia and mood changes, among other problems.

The institute said people can overdose on some hallucinogens, such as PCP, though serious medical emergencies are not common and not associated with drugs typically used in the research studies. Drugs also can be contaminated, and those trying to use psilocybin could consume poisonous mushrooms that look the ones containing the compound.

There are not currently any federally approved psychedelic drugs for medicinal purposes.

“The field is chock full of lessons, and we take them seriously,” said Matthew Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the medical school, who is the center’s assistant director. But he said the potential benefits could be enormous.

The rate of fatal opioid overdoses will probably make use of psilocybin more acceptable to the public, after a “war on drugs” in the 1970s and ’80s stymied all research into psychedelic substances for decades, said Sara Lappan, a visiting instructor in the counseling program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s department of human studies.

Lappan is working on a study using psilocybin to treat addiction to cocaine, a drug that has been making a comeback among users after years of declines. The Alabama study is among a handful around the country testing psilocybin for a variety of treatments.

That study aims to give people “the ability to change” because of how they view themselves. It’s giving them “10 years of therapy smashed into six hours,” she said.

Researchers, she said, hope eventually to use their scientific data to change the legal status of the drug, though she said she knew of no researcher who wants recreational use of psilocybin. And she agreed that the studies have shown promise because the participants and the substances are carefully screened.

At Hopkins, the funding is expected to support five years of research and a team of six faculty neuroscientists, experimental psychologists and clinicians.

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Inside the Science of Memory

Science of Memory | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Linkedin Pinterest Aging Well Mind and Memory Science of Memory Age-Related Depression, Mood and Stress

When Rick Huganir, Ph.D.

, was a teenager, he set out to better understand the physical and emotional changes of adolescence.

“I was wondering what was happening to me, and I realized it was my brain changing,” says Huganir, director of the Johns Hopkins Department of Neuroscience.

That led to a senior project on protein synthesis and memory in goldfish, as well as a lifelong fascination in how we learn and remember things.

“Memories are who we are,” says Huganir. “But making memories is also a biological process.” This process raises many questions. How does the process affect our brain? How do experiences and learning change the connections in our brains and create memories?

Those are just some of the issues Huganir and his colleagues are studying. Their work may lead to new treatments for post-traumatic stress syndrome, as well as ways to improve memory in people with dementia and other cognitive problems.

Memory: It’s All About Connections

When we learn something—even as simple as someone’s name—we form connections between neurons in the brain. These synapses create new circuits between nerve cells, essentially remapping the brain. The sheer number of possible connections gives the brain unfathomable flexibility—each of the brain’s 100 billion nerve cells can have 10,000 connections to other nerve cells.

Those synapses get stronger or weaker depending on how often we’re exposed to an event. The more we’re exposed to an activity ( a golfer practicing a swing thousands of times) the stronger the connections. The less exposure, however, the weaker the connection, which is why it’s so hard to remember things people’s names after the first introduction.

“What we’ve been trying to figure out is how does this occur, and how do you strengthen synapses at a molecular level?” Huganir says.

New Discoveries in Memory

Many of the research questions surrounding memory may have answers in complex interactions between certain brain chemicals—particularly glutamate—and neuronal receptors, which play a crucial role in the signaling between brain cells.

Huganir and his team discovered that when mice are exposed to traumatic events, the level of neuronal receptors for glutamate increases at synapses in the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, and encodes the fear associated with the memory.

Removing those receptors, however, reduces the strength of these connections, essentially erasing the fear component of the trauma but leaving the memory.

Now Huganir and his lab are developing drugs that target those receptors. The hope is that inactivating the receptors could help people with post-traumatic stress syndrome by reducing the fear associated with a traumatic memory, while strengthening them could improve learning, particularly in people with cognitive dysfunction or Alzheimer’s disease.

Johns Hopkins researcher Michael Miller explains how we can use data to create better diagnostic tools for neurodegenerative disorders Alzheimer's disease.

Dementia (di-men-sha): A loss of brain function that can be caused by a variety of disorders affecting the brain.

Symptoms include forgetfulness, impaired thinking and judgment, personality changes, agitation and loss of emotional control.

Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and inadequate blood flow to the brain can all cause dementia. Most types of dementia are irreversible.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A disorder in which your “fight or flight,” or stress, response stays switched on, even when you have nothing to flee or battle.

The disorder usually develops after an emotional or physical trauma, such as a mugging, physical abuse or a natural disaster.

Symptoms include nightmares, insomnia, angry outbursts, emotional numbness, and physical and emotional tension.


Johns Hopkins Opens New Center for Psychedelic Research

Science of Memory | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Continue reading the main story

Since childhood, Rachael Petersen had lived with an unexplainable sense of grief that no drug or talk therapy could entirely ease. So in 2017 she volunteered for a small clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University that was testing psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, for chronic depression.

“I was so depressed,” Ms. Petersen, 29, said recently. “I felt that the world had abandoned me, that I’d lost the right to exist on this planet. Really, it was my thoughts were so stuck, I felt isolated.”

The prospect of tripping for hours on a heavy dose of psychedelics was scary, she said, but the reality was profoundly different: “I experienced this kind of unity, of resonant love, the sense that I’m not alone anymore, that there was this thing holding me that was bigger than my grief. I felt welcomed back to the world.”

On Wednesday, Johns Hopkins Medicine announced the launch of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, to study compounds LSD and psilocybin for a range of mental health problems, including anorexia, addiction and depression.

The center is the first of its kind in the country, established with $17 million in commitments from wealthy private donors and a foundation. Imperial College London launched what is thought to be the world’s first such center in April, with some $3.

5 million from private sources.

“This is an exciting initiative that brings new focus to efforts to learn about mind, brain and psychiatric disorders by studying the effects of psychedelic drugs,” Dr. John Krystal, chair of psychiatry at Yale University, said in an email about the Johns Hopkins center.

The centers at Johns Hopkins and Imperial College give “psychedelic medicine,” as some call it, a long-sought foothold in the scientific establishment.

Since the early 2000s, several scientists have been exploring the potential of psychedelics and other recreational drugs for psychiatric problems, and their early reports have been tantalizing enough to generate a stream of positive headlines and at least two popular books.

The emergence of depression treatment with the anesthetic and club drug ketamine and related compounds, which cause out-of-body sensations, also has piqued interest in mind-altering agents as aids to therapy.

But the drugs’ history of abuse and the still thin evidence base have kept the field largely on the fringes, and many experts are still wary. Psychedelic trials cannot be “blinded” in the same way most drug trials are: participants know when they have been dosed, and reports of improvement aren’t yet standardized.

“It raises the caution that the investigation of hallucinogens as treatments may be endangered by grandiose descriptions of their effects and unquestioning acceptance of their value,” Dr.

Guy Goodwin, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford wrote, in a recent commentary, in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. “Timothy Leary was a research psychologist before he decided the whole world should ‘Turn on, tune in, and drop out.

’ It is best if some steps are not retraced.”

The scientists doing the work, at Hopkins, Imperial College and elsewhere, acknowledge as much, and say the new infusion of funding will help clarify which drugs help which patients, and when the altered states are ineffectual, or potentially dangerous.

“It’s been hand-to-mouth in this field, and now we have the core funding and infrastructure to really advance psychedelic science in a way that hasn’t been done before,” said Roland Griffiths, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins who will direct the new center. Dr.

Griffiths said the new funds will cover six full-time faculty, five postdoctoral scientists and the costs of running trials.

Among the first of those trials are a test of psilocybin for anorexia nervosa and of psilocybin for psychological distress and cognitive impairment in early Alzheimer’s disease.

“The one that’s crying out to be done is for opiate-use disorder, and we also plan to look at that,” Dr. Griffiths said.

Trials using psychedelics or other mind-altering drugs tend to have a similar structure.

Participants, whether they have a diagnosis of PTSD, depression or substance abuse, do extensive preparation with a therapist, which includes a complete medical history and advice and information about the study drug.

People with a history of psychosis are typically excluded, as psychedelics can exacerbate their condition. And those on psychiatric medications usually taper off beforehand.

On treatment day, the person comes into the clinic, takes the drug and sits or lies down, under continuous observation by a therapist, who provides support and occasional guidance as the drug’s effects become felt. In the Johns Hopkins trial that Ms. Petersen joined, participants wore eyeshades and headphones, lay down and listened to music.

“The first trip lasted six and half hours, and I didn’t move,” she recalled. A week later, she returned for another dose; each dose was about twice what recreational users take. Therapy using psychedelics or other mind-altering compounds typically involves just one or two sessions on the drug.

“I would be lying if I said aspects of my experience weren’t deeply challenging and upsetting,” Ms. Petersen said. “The therapist would grab my hand — would save me in a moment — and encourage me to adopt a posture of welcoming everything, a meditation.”

The literature so far, from trials these, suggests that psilocybin is promising for chronic depression and addiction, and that M.D.M.A., or ecstasy, can help people with post-traumatic stress, including veterans. Cannabis and LSD also have been tried, for addiction and other problems, with mixed results.

One finding many drug studies share is that any positive effects are far more ly to last if the participant has an especially intense trip. The intensity is subjectively graded using a variety of measures, including what scientists call the MEQ, for “mystical experience, questionnaire,” although Dr. Griffiths allowed that the term is misleading.

“That was a significant branding mistake, because awe is not fun,” he said. “There’s something existentially shaking about these experiences.”

It is that existential reckoning, the theory goes, that prompts many people to rejigger their identities or priorities in a way that reduces habitual behaviors or lines of thinking that cause distress.

In a continuing trial, Matthew Johnson, an addiction specialist at Johns Hopkins and a member of the new psychedelic center, is investigating how psilocybin treatment compares to use of a nicotine patch in helping people to quit smoking. So far, in the 39 people who have been in the study for at least six months, the abstinence rate in the psilocybin group is 50 percent, compared to 32 percent using the patch.

“The most compelling thing that makes psilocybin different from other addiction drugs is that it’s showing this cross-drug efficacy,” Dr. Johnson said. “It appears to have a similar effect, regardless of what drug the person is addicted to.”

That great potential, across many different diagnoses, is what attracted a small group of donors to Johns Hopkins, said Tim Ferriss, who brought in half the donated amount from investors, including more than $2 million from himself. Mr.

Ferriss, an investor and author, said that depression and addiction ran in his own family, and that available treatments were often inadequate. His investment in the center, he said, “was a chance to have a large output from a small input — a real Archimedes lever.

” The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation provided the balance of the commitments.

Ms. Petersen is convinced that her psilocybin trip made a lasting difference. She has had one relapse since the trial, she said, and continued on antidepressant drugs. As a result of the trial, she also reordered her life, committing more time to things that are emotionally sustaining, and letting go of those there weren’t.

“I think that trial was the single most effective thing I’ve done to manage my mental health, and I had tried almost everything,” she said. “And it leads me to believe that we need to radically change how we think about mental health.”

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