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Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss and March, is a British artist, scientist and drug policy reformer. In 1998, she founded the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust that i) promotes a rational, evidence-based approach to global drug policy; ii) initiates, designs and conducts pioneering neuroscientific and clinical research into the effects of psychoactive substances on the brain and cognition and iii) investigates new avenues of treatment for mental and physical conditions as well as the enhancement of creativity and well-being.
Early life and education
Feilding is the youngest child of Basil Feilding (himself a great-grandson of the 7th Earl of Denbigh and the Marquess of Bath) and his wife and cousin Margaret Feilding. The Feilding family is descended from the House of Habsburg and came to England in the 14th Century. Since then the family has intermarried in the British aristocracy, and is directly descended from two illegitimate children of Charles II of England by his mistresses Barbara Villiers and Moll Davis. She grew up at Beckley Park, a Tudor hunting lodge with three towers and three moats situated on the edge of a fen outside Oxford. The family had no money, so her upbringing was eccentric and isolated.
From an early age, she was interested in states of consciousness and mysticism. She studied Comparative Religions and Mysticism with Prof. R.C. Zaehner, Classical Arabic with Prof. Albert Hourani, and sculpture. She later concentrated on research into altered states of consciousness, psychology, physiology and later neuroscience.
In 1966 Feilding met and had a long-lasting relationship with Dutch scientist Bart Huges. Since the late 60s she lived with Joseph Mellen with whom she had two sons, Rock Basil Hugo Feilding Mellen (born 1979) and Cosmo Birdie Feilding Mellen (born 1985). She and Mellen separated in the early 90s and on 29 January 1995, she married James Charteris, 13th Earl of Wemyss, 9th Earl of March, son of David Charteris, 12th Earl of Wemyss, 8th Earl of March under the Bent Pyramid in Egypt.
Feilding gained notoriety in 1970 when she performed trepanation on herself, about which she made a short cult art film entitled "Heartbeat in the Brain". Trepanation was part of her exploration into the effects of different techniques to alter and enhance consciousness. During this period, she wrote Blood and Consciousness, which hypothesized that ratios of blood and cerebrospinal fluid underlie changes in the conscious state, and the theory of the "ego" controlling the distribution of blood in the brain. During the 1970s and 80s she painted, and produced conceptual artworks to do with consciousness, which were exhibited at the ICA in London, PS1 in New York and other galleries in the US.
Feilding has long had interest in modulating consciousness for the benefit of the individual and society. She has investigated different ways of altering consciousness from meditation to the use of psychoactive substances and trepanation.
Feilding learned about the ancient practice of trepanation from Bart Huges, whom she met in 1966, and who published a scroll on the topic. The hypothesis that she investigated proposes that trepanation improves cerebral circulation by allowing the full heartbeat to express itself, which Feilding hypothesises cannot normally occur after fusion of the cranial bones. To compensate for this theorized decrease, she hypothesizes humanity developed an internal system of controlling blood flow in the brain, a development that Feilding identifies with the origins of language. Trepanation, Feilding hypothesises, allows people to achieve higher states of consciousness that she theorizes children experience before their cranial bones fuse. Recent research carried out by Feilding on patients with cranial lesions in collaboration with Prof. Yuri Moskalenko has provided evidence of blood flow changes. This is part of a larger research programme investigating how intracranial dynamics change as we age, and what can be done to increase cranial compliance which they theorize might to help limit some of the detrimental changes associated with aging. Through this research, a new, non-invasive means of assessing intracranial dynamics, "The Moskalenko Method", has been developed by Moskalenko, Feilding, et al.
Feilding ran for British Parliament twice, on the platform 'Trepanation for the National Health' with the intention of advocating research into its potential benefits, but received few votes (40 in 1979 and 139 in 1983). 35 years later, she is behind research into these changes at the Sechenov Institute for Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, St. Petersburg.
She is also collaborating on other psychedelic research projects. These include: investigating the efficacy of using psilocybin as an aid to psychotherapy in overcoming addiction; a set of brain imaging study investigating the effects of psilocybin and MDMA on cerebral blood supply and the recall of distant memories; the neurophysiology underlying the effects of cannabis that the users find beneficial; the effects of cannabis on the creative process; the effects of the different components of cannabis and the importance of the THC/CBD ratio in mental health.
Feilding is also active in drugs policy reform, arguing that benefits as well as harms should be considered in forming policies. In 2007, Feilding convened the Global Cannabis Commission Report, authored by a group of leading drug policy analysts, which lays out a blueprint for possible reforms of cannabis control policies at national and international levels. The Report was presented at the 10-yearly UN General Assembly Global Drug Policy Review in Vienna in March 2009 (the Beckley Foundation is a UN accredited NGO). The Cannabis Commission Report is being published by Oxford University Press and the Beckley Foundation.
Beckley Foundation Press
The Beckley Foundation’s Global Cannabis Commission was convened by Amanda Feilding in 2006. Its findings were presented at a Meeting at the House of Lords in 2008. The findings were initially published in Report form as: The Global Cannabis Commission Report, subtitled Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate. The Global Commissioners were Robin Room, Benedikt Fischer, Wayne Hall, Simon Lenton, Peter Reuter and Amanda Feilding. The authors of the Report were Robin Room, Benedikt Fischer, Wayne Hall, Simon Lenton and Peter Reuter.
Hofmann’s Elixir: LSD and the New Eleusis Edited by Amanda Feilding Talks & Essays by Albert Hofmann and others Beckley Foundation Press (2010).
Reviewing the UN Drug Conventions: Cannabis and Psychedelics, Amanda Feilding. In Controversies on the Regulation of Traditional Drug Use, Bia Labate and Clancy Cavnar (eds), Accepted by Springer-Wiley.
The Resurrection of Psychedelic Research, Amanda Feilding. In Harm Reduction in Substance Use and High-Risk Behaviour, Richard Pates and Diane Riley (eds), Wiley-Blackwell (2012), pp. 246−51.
Amanda Feilding's Scientific Papers and Publications
LSD enhances suggestibility in healthy volunteers R. L. Carhart-Harris M. Kaelen, M. G. Whalley, M. Bolstridge, A. Feilding, D. J. Nutt. Psychopharmacology, February 2015, Volume 232, Issue 4 pp 785-794
The effects of psilocybin and MDMA on between-network resting state functional connectivity in healthy volunteers Leor Roseman, Robert Leech, Amanda Feilding, David J. Nutt, and Robin L. Carhart-Harris. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014; 8: 204. Published online 2014 May 27
The entropic brain: a theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging re search with psychedelic drugs Robin L. Carhart-Harris, Robert Leech, Peter J. Hellyer, Murray Shanahan, Amanda Feilding, Enzo Tagliazucchi, Dante R. Chialvo and David Nutt. Front. Hum. Neurosci., 3 February 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00020
The effect of MDMA on recollecting emotionally-potent autobiographical memories: an fMRI study with implications for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy Carhart-Harris RL, Feilding A, Curran VH, Nutt DJ et al. Intl Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 Apr; 17(4):527-40
The effect of acutely administered MDMA on subjective and BOLD-fMRI responses to favourite and worst autobiographical memories R. L. Carhart-Harris, M. B. Wall, D. Erritzoe, M. Kaelen, B. Ferguson, I. De Meer, M. Tanner, M. Bloomfield, T. M. Williams, M. Bolstridge, L. Stewart, C. J. Morgan, R. D. Newbould, A. Feilding, H. V. Curran and D. J. Nutt
Broadband cortical desynchronization underlies the human psychedelic state Suresh D. Muthukumaraswamy, Robin L. Carhart-Harris, Rosalyn J. Moran, Matthew J. Brookes, Tim M. Williams, David Errtizoe, Ben Sessa, Andreas Papadopoulos, Mark Bolstridge, Krish D. Singh, Amanda Feilding, Karl J. Friston, and David J. Nutt
Implications for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy: functional magnetic resonance imaging study with psilocybin Carhart-Harris RL, Feilding A, Nutt DJ et al., British Journal of Psychiatry, 2012, 200(3):238–44.
Beckley Foundation Collaboration with University College London: Amanda Feilding in collaboration with Prof Valerie Curran and Dr Celia Morgan Harms and benefits associated with psychoactive drugs: findings of an international survey of active drug users Morgan CJA, Feilding A, Curran VH et al., Journal of Psychopharmacology, 25 Feb 2013 epub
Investigating the interaction between schizotypy, divergent thinking and cannabis use Schafer G, Feilding A, Morgan CJA et al., Consciousness and Cognition, 2012, 21:292–98.
Cognitive and subjective effects of mephedrone and factors influencing use of a new ‘legal high’ Freeman, TP, Morgan, CJA, Vaughn-Jones et al., Addiction, 2012, 107:792–800. (Beckley Foundation-sponsored study)
Beckley Foundation Collaboration with King's College London, Institute of Psychiatry: Amanda Feilding in collaboration with Dr Paul Morrison Cannabidiol inhibits THC-elicited paranoid symptoms and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment Englund A, Morrison P, Feilding A et al., Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2013 Jan;27(1):19–27
Communication breakdown: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol effects on pre-speech neural coherence Stone J, Morrison P, Feilding A et al., Molecular Psychiatry, 2012 Jun;17(6):568–9.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol disruption of time perception and of self-timed actions Stone JM, Morrison PD, Feilding A et al., Pharmacopsychiatry, 2010 Aug, 43(6):236–7.
Does intravenous (D)9-tetrahydrocannabinol increase dopamine release? A SPET study Barkus E, Morrison PD, Vuletic D et al., Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2011, 25(11):1462–8. (Beckley Foundation-sponsored study)
Disruption of Frontal Theta Coherence by Δ(9)-Tetrahydrocannabinol is Associated with Positive Psychotic Symptoms Morrison PD, Nottage J, Stone JM et al., Neuropsychopharmacology, 2011, 36(4):827–36. (Beckley Foundation-sponsored study)
Opposite effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on human brain function and psychopathology Bhattacharyya S, Morrison PD, Fusar-Poli P, et al., Neuropsychopharmacology, 2010, 35(3):764–74. (Beckley Foundation-sponsored study)
Beckley Foundation Collaboration with Freiburg University: Amanda Feilding in collaboration with Prof Thilo Hinterberger Neurophysiological correlates to psychological trait variables in experienced meditative practitioners Thilo Hinterberger, Amanda Feilding et al. In Neuroscience, Consciousness and Spirituality, H. Walach, S. Schmidt & W. Jonas (eds), Berlin: Springer (2011), pp. 129−57.
Beckley Foundation Collaboration with I. M. Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry:
Non-Invasive Evaluation of Human Brain Fluid Dynamics and Skull Biomechanics in Relation to Cognitive Functioning Moskalenko Y, Feilding A and Halvorson P. Monograph. Published by Beckley Foundation Press (2009)
Effects of cranial trepanation on the functioning of cerebrovascular and cerebrospinal fluid systems Moskalenko Y, Feilding A, et al., International Journal of Psychophysiology, 2008, 69(3):302.
Relation of age cognitive disorders with cranial compliance, cerebrospinal fluid mobility and cerebral circulation Moskalenko Y Feilding A et al., International Journal of Pathophysiology, 2008, 69(3):307.
The effect of craniotomy on the intracranial hemodynamics and cerebrospinal fluid dynamics in humans Moskalenko YE, Feilding A et al. Human Physiology, 2008, 34(3):299–305.
Biomechanical properties of human cranium: aging aspects Moskalenko YE, Feilding A et al. Journal of Evolutionary Biochemistry and Physiology, 2008, 44(5):605–14.
Effect of the skull trephination opening on the interaction between intracranial, vascular and CSF systems Moskalenko, Y, Feilding A et al., 2006, Journal of Neurotrauma 23(6):1000.
Slow-wave oscillations in the craniosacral space: a hemo- liquorodynamic concept of origination Moskalenko YE, Feilding A et al. Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology, 2009, 39(4):377– 81.
Noninvasive dynamic evaluation of functioning in the intracranial system Moskalenko YE, Feilding A et al., Proceedings of the 4th International Conference “Development and applying of high technologies in science, industry and education”, St Petersburg, 2007, vol. 10:214–15.
Age-dependent correlation between cerebral blood circulation, cerebrospinal fluid dynamics and the cranial compliance Moskalenko YE, Feilding A et al. Proceedings of the 6th European Congress of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics, “Healthy Aging for All Europeans”, St Petersburg, 2007, Advances in Gerontology 20(3):58.
- Homo Sapiens Correctus, Bart Huges, self-published scroll
- Feilding, Amanda. 2001. Blood and Consciousnes: The Search for Expanded Consciousnes from Paleolitic to Modern Man. Speech given at Mind States Conference, Berkeley, Ca, USA.
- The Effect of Craniotomy on the Intracranial Hemodynamics and Cerebrospinal Fluid Dynamics in Humans. Yu. E. Moskalenko, G. B. Weinstein , T. I. Kravchenko, S. V. Mozhaev , V. N. Semernya, A. Feilding , P. Halvorson, and S. V. Medvedev. Human Physiology, 2008, Vol. 34, No. 3, pp. 299–305. Pleiades Publishing, Inc., 2008
- Levy, Geoffrey. Cannabis Countess, Daily Mail UK, April 10, 2010.
- Stix, Gary; LSD Returns--For Psychotherapeutics: LSD makes a comeback as a possible clinical treatment Scientific American
- Lim HK, Andrenyak D, Francom P, Foltz RL, Jones RT. Quantification of LSD and N-demethyl-LSD in urine by gas chromatography/resonance electron capture ionization mass spectrometry. Anal Chem. 1988 Jul 15;60(14):1420-5. PMID 3218752.