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Change Your Brain by Transforming Your Mind


Speaker: Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D.

Founder of the Center for Healthy Minds

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Date: May 3, 2016 - 10:00 a.m. ET

Masur Auditorium, Building 10 National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD

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Lecture Summary

Dr. Richard Davidson presented an overview of studies conducted in his laboratory on neural changes associated with various forms of meditation. Distinctions among three major forms of meditation practice were made: focused attention, open monitoring, and positive affect training. Each of these forms of meditation has different neural and behavioral effects. From the perspective of Western neuroscience, different forms of meditation can be conceptualized as mental training to promote the regulation of emotion and attention. Data from studies on long-term meditation practitioners as well as those with shorter durations of training were highlighted.

Dr. Davidson also reviewed some longitudinal studies that tracked changes over time with meditation practice. In addition to the neural changes that have been observed, he summarized changes that have been found in peripheral biology that may modulate physical health and illness. The central brain circuitry of emotion is especially implicated in peripheral biological changes that have consequences for health. The overall conclusions from these studies are that one can transform the mind through meditation and thereby alter the brain and the periphery in ways that may be beneficial for mental and physical health, and for well-being.

Speaker Bio

Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., is the Founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style and methods to promote human flourishing, including meditation and related contemplative practices. His studies have included people of all ages from birth through old age and individuals with disorders of emotion such as mood and anxiety disorders and autism, as well as expert meditation practitioners with tens of thousands of hours of experience. His research uses a wide range of methods including different varieties of magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, electroencephalography, and modern genetic and epigenetic methods.

Reception and Poster Session

Posters Presented by NCCIH

Mindfulness Interventions and Chronic Widespread Pain in Adolescents
Ather Ali, N.D., M.P.H., M.H.S.
Yale School of Medicine

This research is part of a systematic assessment of the role of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in managing fibromyalgia in adolescents. Different “doses” of MBSR (high, standard, and low) are being compared to see which is most helpful.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) Effects on Brain Mechanisms of Interoceptive Awareness and Rumination in Depression
Gaëlle Desbordes, Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School

This study is using sophisticated brain-imaging tools to investigate the effects of MBCT on negative, self-focused mood states in people with depression. The findings should shed light on the neural and physiological mechanisms of action of MBCT in depressed patients.

Omics and Variable Responses to Placebo and Acupuncture in Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Efi Kokkotou, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.
Harvard Medical School

Different patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may respond to treatments in different ways. This study is using serum proteomics analysis and investigation of gene polymorphisms to help distinguish IBS patients who can benefit from placebo treatments or acupuncture from those who cannot.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Multiple Sclerosis: Feasibility, Durability, and Clinical Outcomes
Angela Senders, N.D., M.C.R.
National College of Natural Medicine

This study is exploring the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) to find out whether it can improve their quality of life and whether any beneficial effects can be maintained during a 12-month followup period.

Brain Mechanisms Supporting Mindfulness-Based Pain Relief
Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D.
Wake Forest School of Medicine

This study aims to identify the behavioral, neural, and pharmacologic mechanisms associated with mindfulness-based pain relief. Multiple approaches are being used to test the neural mechanisms by which mindfulness meditation influences pain-related brain activity.

Continuing Education Credit

This activity has been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™.
CME credit is available to those who attended in person and those who view the lecture live online. Please return the self-credit report form (220K Microsoft Word document*) by May 16, 2016.

Stephen E. Straus Distinguished Lecture in the Science of Complementary Health Therapies

Presented by NCCIH and supported by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health with a generous gift from Bernard and Barbro Osher.

More about the Stephen E. Straus Distinguished Lecture Series.