“Contemplative Neuroscience” Can Modify Brain Functioning

Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says disorders like depression and anxiety can be changed with brain training.

He is an award-winning researcher in neuroplasticity, the process by which the brain’s adaptable, transformative capabilities are deployed.
Davidson asserts that this intentional transformation is enabled by contemplative cognitive practices, including meditation to increase moment-to-moment consciousness.

Davidson distinguishes the neural and behavioral consequences of various contemplative practices, and argues for their positive impacts on physical health for both beginning and experienced practitioners.

His recent research demonstrated that even meditation-based interventions delivered online can produce behavioral and neural changes.
He explained that the field of epigenetics investigates how genes are regulated by the environment, including the neural milieu.

Davidson suggested that contemplative practices can modify the neural environment, and revealed that neurally-inspired behavioral interventions (NIBI) can invoke greater change than any currently-known pharmacological intervention.

He detailed research studies of expert practitioners of contemplative practice, both in the US and in India. He discussed the work showing the link between brain and heart, citing work of Francisco Varela in “neurophenomenology”.

He cited results comparing the impact of training in compassion training (visualizing suffering and wishing freedom from suffering for loved one, self, stranger, difficult person, all beings with the thought: “May you be free from suffering. May you experience joy and ease,” while noticing visceral sensations around the heart) vs cognitive reappraisal training.

Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman

He collaborated with his Harvard University graduate student colleague, Daniel Goleman, now known as the originator of the term, “Emotional Intelligence,” to produce a book on Consciousness: the Brain, States of Awareness, and Alternate Realities .

-*How have you used contemplated practices to evoke personal change in attitudes or behaviors?

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