David Rising Star

 LAURELS: David Olson Named a Rising Star

Man writes chemical formula on clear board

David Olson: Rising Star Award in Neurobiology of Psychedelics. (UC Davis photo)

David Rising Star

David Olson, College of Letters and Science and School of Medicine

Prasad Naik, Graduate School of Management

Bernardo “Bernie” Bastien-Olvera, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

The Mahoney Institute for Neurosciences at the University of Pennsylvania recently presented its 2023 Rising Star Award to David Olson, founding director of the UC Davis Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics.

David Olson headshot, UC Davis faculty

David Olson

The institute has given a Rising Star Award annually since 2018, in categories such as addiction research and neurodegenerative research, and, in 2023, for the understanding of the neurobiology of psychedelics.

Olson received his award, including a $10,000 honorarium, at the institute’s 38th annual retreat and symposium in April. He was also on the symposium program, making a presentation.

“This award is really a reflection of the incredible creativity and passion of the many students and researchers at UC Davis who are pushing the field of psychedelic science in new and exciting directions,” said Olson, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, College of Letters and Science, and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, School of Medicine.

In 2018, Olson and colleagues demonstrated that psychedelics — like DMT, LSD and psilocin — promote neuroplasticity, highlighting the ability of these compounds to repair neural circuits affected by myriad mental health and neurodegenerative diseases.

In follow-up studies, the team decoupled the therapeutic effects of psychedelics from their hallucinogenic properties. Eventually, they engineered the first nonhallucinogenic version of a psychedelic compound with therapeutic potential and developed a cellular assay to determine a compound’s hallucinogenic potential.

Building on this momentum to advance brain health, UC Davis launched the Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics in early 2023. The institute is funded by an approximately $5 million from the College of Letters and Science and the School of Medicine, the Office of Research and the Office of the Provost.

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