Gul Dolen: Social Cognition, Critical Periods, MDMA, Oxytocin, Metaplasticity, Autism, & Octopuses
Updated: Mar 16
About the Guest: Gul Dolen, PhD is a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. Her lab studies the circuit and synaptic mechanisms of social cognition in health and disease.
Episode Summary: Nick and Dr. Dolen discuss her research on critical periods for social reward learning in rodents, the role of oxytocin in social behavior and learning, and how MDMA ("ecstasy") promotes prosocial behavior in animals as diverse as humans, rodents, and octopuses. They also talk about how drugs like MDMA and psychedelics influence "metaplasticity," enabling environmental factors to trigger plasticity (physical changes in the brain) in a context-specific manner. Dr. Dolen also describes how her research relates to developing treatments for autism, as well as her thoughts on whether the subjective effects of psychedelics and other drugs are necessary for some of their therapeutic effects.