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|Born||30 January 1943|
|Other names||Lady Neidpath|
|Occupation||Drug policy reformer, neuroscience researcher|
|Known for||Beckley Foundation|
|Heartbeat in the Brain|
Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss and March, is an English drug policy reformer, lobbyist and research coordinator. In 1998 she founded the Foundation to Further Consciousness, later renamed to the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust which initiates, directs and supports neuroscientific and clinical research into the effects of psychoactive substances on the brain and cognition. She has also co-authored over 50 papers published in peer-reviewed journals, according to the Foundation. The central aim of her research is to investigate new avenues of treatment for such mental illnesses as depression, anxiety and addiction, as well as to explore methods of enhancing well-being and creativity.
Feilding has been a proponent of exploiting the cognitive effects of cannabis since the 1960s. She has experimented with trepanning, drilling a hole into the skull to expose the dura mater, a technique used in some cultures to treat mental illness, and considered by some to provide a calming effect or a higher state of consciousness.
Born in 1943, Feilding is the youngest child of Basil Feilding, great-grandson of the 7th Earl of Denbigh and the Marquess of Bath, and his wife and cousin, Margaret Feilding. She grew up at Beckley Park, a Tudor hunting lodge with three towers and three moats, then owned by her father Basil Feilding, situated on the edge of a fen outside Oxford.
From an early age, Feilding was interested in states of consciousness and mysticism. At 16 years old, with just £25 in her pocket, she packed her bags and embarked on a journey to Ceylon, Sri Lanka where her godfather, Bertie Moore, had become a Buddhist monk. Although she did not reach Sri Lanka, Feilding hitchhiked as far as the Syrian border, where she spent time living with Bedouins before returning to the UK. Feilding then studied Comparative Religions and Mysticism with Prof. R.C. Zaehner and Classical Arabic with Prof. Albert Hourani. She concentrated later on learning about altered states of consciousness, psychology, physiology and, later, neuroscience.
Feilding had her first psychedelic experience at 22 years of age, when an acquaintance spiked her coffee with a massive dose of then-legal LSD. The experience nearly broke her, and she retreated to her family home for months to recover
Feilding gained notoriety in 1970 when she performed trepanation on herself, with a dental drill. She made a short cult art film about the experience, entitled Heartbeat in the Brain. The 1998 documentary A Hole in the Head contains footage from Heartbeat in the Brain. Feilding also began to microdose herself with LSD while she was in her 20s. A 2019 Guardian article offers this analysis: "It would be fair to say ... that her credibility as an advocate has not always been helped by her storied history with self-experimentation".
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 changing ratios of blood and cerebrospinal fluid underlie changes in consciousness, and also described the theory of the "ego" as a conditioned reflex mechanism that controls the distribution of blood in the brain. During the 1970s and 80s she painted and produced conceptual artworks associated with consciousness, which were exhibited at the ICA in London, PS1 in New York and other galleries in the US.
Feilding holds a longstanding interest in investigating consciousness for the benefit of the individual and society. She has supported research into different ways of altering consciousness from meditation to the use of psychoactive substances and trepanation.
In 1998, Feilding founded the Foundation to Further Consciousness, later renamed Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust which claims to promote a rational, evidence-based approach to global drug policies and initiates, directs and supports pioneering neuroscientific and clinical research into the effects of psychoactive substances on the brain and cognition. The central aim of her research is to investigate new avenues of treatment for such mental illnesses as depression, anxiety and addiction, as well as to explore methods of enhancing well-being and creativity. The Foundation states that Fielding has co-authored over 50 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals. Feilding is the Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation.
Through the Beckley Foundation, Feilding initiates, directs, and supports scientific research investigating psychoactive substances, such as cannabis and other psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT and MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy).
Considered one of the pioneers of the renaissance of psychedelic research, with the New Scientist calling her the "Queen of Consciousness", she has initiated several ground-breaking research projects. Of note is a study investigating the efficacy of using psilocybin as an aid to psychotherapy in overcoming depression and nicotine addiction, a brain imaging study investigating the effects of psilocybin and MDMA on cerebral blood supply, an examination of the effects of cannabis on creativity and of the importance of the THC/CBD ratio in mental health, and the first brain imaging study investigating the effects of LSD on the brain.
Feilding has also been active in drug policy reform and was among the first to start building an evidence-base upon which new policies could be formed, arguing that benefits as well as harms should be considered. In 2007, Feilding convened the Global Cannabis Commission, producing a report authored by a group of leading drug policy analysts, which lays out a plan for possible reforms of cannabis control policies at national and international levels. 2011 saw Feilding bring together members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy Reform (a panel of world leaders and intellectuals) and political leaders from 14 countries interested in reform. Together, at the House of Lords, they launched the Beckley Foundation Global Initiative for Drug Policy Reform, a joint initiative with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, which was set up to support the BF's initiative to drive forward alternative approaches to drug control to create more humane, evidence-based policies that would reduce the potential harm of drugs to individuals and societies.
From these meetings, two important reports were written and published. The first, in 2012, was entitled 'Roadmaps to Reforming the UN Drug Conventions'. It detailed ways in which the UN drug conventions could be amended to give countries greater freedom to adopt policies better suited to their individual needs. The next, in 2013, was a rigorous academic analysis by the widely respected Institute for Social and Economic Research. It discussed the possible outcomes of decriminalising and regulating cannabis in England and Wales. Also in 2013, President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala asked Feilding to advise on the Guatemala government's policy on drugs, and in 2015, Mark Golding, the Jamaican Minister of Justice, invited Feilding to advise him and the government in developing plans for the country's new system of cannabis regulation. In May 2016, in response to the enforcement of the Home Office's Psychoactive Substance Act, the Beckley Foundation published a chapter on the regulation of new psychoactive substances (NPS) from an upcoming report entitled Roadmaps to Regulation: Cannabis, Psychedelics, MDMA and NPS.
A report in early 2019 indicated that the Foundation would be conducting further research into the use of LSD to trigger long-term improvements in creativity. (A previous study by the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme, in conjunction with Imperial College, indicated some likelihood of success in this goal, according to Feilding.) Feilding offered this summary of the new plan.
Participants will receive two microdoses (10 mic) per week over a period of four weeks. On each microdosing day, they will complete questionnaires to assess various aspects of their mood, wellbeing and cognitive functions as well as other tests, including a computerized Go game, to investigate creativity and intuitive thinking. Brain function will be measured using EEG both at rest and while participants are actively involved in those tests. Importantly, this study will also evaluate the safety and tolerability of repeated microdoses of LSD, via measures of LSD pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, including physiological markers of inflammation and neurogenesis.
News reports in 2018-2019 indicated that the Foundation had been retained by the Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corporation to conduct research as to the benefits of various strains of its products, particularly in treating pain, anxiety and drug addiction. One goal is to reduce dependence on opioids in treating cancer-related pain. The two formed Beckley Canopy Therapeutics in Oxford, to raise funds from investors for cannabinoid research and drug development.
Canopy Growth has been planning to export its products to the UK. The long-term intent of the partnership is to confirm the value of cannabis in specific conditions and to convince insurers to pay for medical cannabis when used accordingly. Mark Ware, Canopy's chief medical officer, said in an interview that Feilding's "ability to take a scientific look at what would otherwise be considered as controversial therapeutics makes her a very good partner".
In 1966 Feilding met and formed a relationship with Dutch scientist Bart Huges. From 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). They are cousins to Cassandra Hurt, daughter of the late Anna Teresa D'abreu (1950-1995) whose mother, Margaret Ann Bowes-Lyon, was a first cousin to the Queen Mother. Rock Feilding-Mellen is a local councillor and cabinet member for housing, property and regeneration with Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council. In addition to two sons, Feilding has two grandchildren.
She and Mellen separated in the mid 1990s and on 29 January 1995 she married James Charteris, 13th Earl of Wemyss and March (then known by the courtesy title of Lord Neidpath), under the Bent Pyramid in Egypt. Feilding also uses the title Lady Neidpath. Amanda's aunt, Susan Feilding, married Major Hugh Hibbert, a cousin of Ida M Hibbert (1901-1998), the wife of the author Henry Williamson.
When discussing how her mother viewed her life when Feilding was in her 30s, she made this comment during an interview: "There I was, druggy, trepanned, unmarried, with two sons - bastards, as she might have seen them - and she didn't mind a bit".
Fielding works at Beckley Park near the village of Beckley, Oxfordshire, a former Tudor Hunting Lodge; she humorously nicknamed the property Brainblood Hall in the 1960s. In early 2019, the property housed the offices of five researchers and interns. Some news articles refer to Beckley Park as her residence, but Feilding and her husband maintain an official residence at Stanway House in Gloucestershire and also own Gosford House in East Lothian.
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 inside the cranial cavity, which Feilding hypothesises cannot fully occur after the closing of the cranial bones in adulthood. To compensate for the relative loss of blood in the brain, she hypothesised that humans developed an internal system of control of blood flow in the brain, which Feilding identifies with the development of the "ego" and the origins of language. Trepanation, Feilding hypothesises, allows increased blood circulation, allowing people to achieve and sustain a slightly higher state of consciousness that she theorises children experience before their cranial bones fuse. Recent research on patients with cranial lesions in collaboration with Prof. Yuri Moskalenko has provided evidence of blood flow changes. This is part of an investigation on the change of intracranial dynamics with age, and ways to increase cranial compliance (which, they theorise, might to help limit the detrimental changes associated with ageing). Through this investigation, Moskalenko and Feilding developed a non-invasive means of assessing intracranial dynamics--the 'Cranial Compliance Monitor'.
Although Feilding believes that trepanation can expand consciousness and reduce neurosis, the practice has gained no support from the medical community over the years.
Feilding ran for British Parliament twice, in 1979 and 1983, on the platform 'Trepanation for the National Health' with the intention of advocating research into its potential benefits; she advocated the provision of the procedure by the National Health Service. Thirty-five years later, she initiated and was involved in research into the physiological effects of trepanation and cranial compliance at the Sechenov Institute for Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, St. Petersburg.
|Ancestors of Amanda Feilding|
Feilding has co-authored a number of papers and reports with the Beckley Foundation.
In 1998, Amanda Feilding set up the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust which initiates, directs and supports neuroscientific and clinical research into the effects of psychoactive substances. She has also co-authored over 50 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals.
I strongly suspect LSD, and other psychedelics if used responsibly, have the potential to enhance creativity. The brain imaging studies we carried out through the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme showed a remarkable increase in connectivity throughout the brain under LSD and psilocybin, which with further research may well prove to be linked with mental flexibility and enhanced creative thought.
Beckley Canopy Therapeutics, based in Oxford, England has raised ?7.4 million for the purposes of cannabinoid research and drug development. The new company is a unique partnership established between Canopy Growth Corporation and the Beckley Foundation, a research institute which examines the utilization of psychotropic drugs for the treatment of physical and mental conditions. Studies focusing on the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of opioid addiction and cancer pain will be conducted in Europe, the UK and the US. .. This is exactly the kind of high-placed, societally influential effort in other words, that might finally break the medical taboo at the most important remaining logjam- at the point of prescription and approval for patients.
As a new business partnership investing in UK medicine and research, we would like the government to ensure that access to medicinal cannabis is as simple and straightforward as possible for patients.