2008 SRI

at the Garrison Institute, Garrison, New York, June 6-12, 2008

Conference Brochure

Click to view the brochure from the 2008 SRI in PDF format.


The purpose of the Mind & Life Summer Research Institute is to advance collaborative research among behavioral and clinical scientists, neuroscientists, and biomedical researchers based on a process of inquiry, dialogue, and in some cases, collaboration, with Buddhist contemplative practitioners and scholars and those in other contemplative traditions. The long-term objective is to advance the training of a new generation of behavioral scientists, cognitive/affective neuroscientists, clinical researchers, and contemplative scholar/practitioners interested in exploring the potential influences of meditation and other contemplative practices on mind, behavior, brain function, and health. This includes examining the potential role of contemplative methods for characterizing human experience and consciousness from a neuroscience and clinical intervention perspective.

The specific goals of the Summer Research Institute are:

  1. to cultivate strategic dialogue between experimental psychologists, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists on the one hand, and contemplative scholar/practitioners and philosophers on the other, in order to develop research protocols to enhance investigation of human mental activity;
  2. to foster a cadre of nascent scientists (graduate students and post-docs) and contemplative scholars and philosophers to participate in the development of the next generation of scientists, clinicians, and scholars interested in innovation and collaboration at the mind-brain-behavior interface;
  3. to advance a collaborative research program to study the influence of contemplative practices on the mind, behavior and brain function, by informed use of highly trained subjects in human neuroscience protocols.
  4. to explore ways in which the first-person examination of mental phenomena, by means of refining attention and related skills, may be raised to a level of rigor comparable to the third-person methodologies of the cognitive sciences; and
  5. to catalyze the creation of three new scientific and academic disciplines: Contemplative Neuroscience; Contemplative Clinical Science and Contemplative Studies.

Primary Theme

The 2008 Summer Research Institute will be devoted to the theme of attention and emotion regulation. It will bring together researchers in basic science, clinical science, contemplative scholarship and practice, and philosophy to investigate the relation between attentional processes and emotional self-regulation.
In recent years emotional self-regulation and attention have emerged as central themes in psychology (clinical and developmental) and neuroscience (affective and cognitive). Yet little work has been done to link findings about attention in cognitive psychology and neuroscience to findings about emotional self-regulation in clinical and developmental psychology and affective neuroscience. This gap reflects a longstanding separation of cognition and emotion in the brain and cognitive sciences, but one that has become increasingly untenable.

Contemplative mental training, including the psychological and philosophical theories of mental functioning that inform this training, open new avenues for investigating the complex relations among emotion, attention, meta-cognition, cognitive appraisal, affect and feeling, and the voluntary self-regulation of mental states. Contemplative practice not only offers new psychological phenomena for scientific investigation, but also and more importantly provides new resources for advancing scientific theories and models of cognitive and emotional functioning and subjective experience.

Through scientific, contemplative, and philosophical presentations, as well as intensive group discussions, the 2008 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute aims to break new ground in our understanding of attention and emotion regulation while fostering collaborative research in the newly emerging fields of contemplative neuroscience, contemplative clinical science, and humanistic contemplative studies.

The scientific emphasis will include developing rigorous experimental designs to evaluate both state and trait effects of contemplative practice, clinical trials methodology for evaluating the impact of meditative-based interventions, and potential experimental designs for incorporating “first-person” contemplative methods into cognitive/affective neuroscience research on consciousness. We will encourage the active collaboration of scientists, Buddhists, and other contemplative practitioner/scholars in all phases of research. Examples of findings from such collaborations will be provided.

Other Themes

Some other possible themes that may be addressed include:

  • Functional neuroimaging research on relations between changes in subjective experience during meditation and alterations in brain function.
  • Neuroplasticity and its implications for understanding transformations in brain and behavior as a function of development, including the impact of educational methods, with a focus on certain critical issues in developmental psychology.
  • Fundamentals of clinical intervention research to study comparative outcomes of meditation-based interventions, as well as to investigate the causal agency of contemplative practices in reducing suffering and promoting health.
  • Integration of first-person methods in research on brain function, meditation, and consciousness.
  • Affective and cognitive trait effects of meditation and methods to interrogate these changes in brain and behavior.
  • Longitudinal research with meditation practitioners.
  • Epistemological and methodological issues about introspection and meta-cognition, as seen from the perspectives of Buddhist and other contemplative psychology and modern cognitive science.
  • Issues in the professional development of meditation researchers including: how to write a successful grant; what types of professional positions are especially amenable to conducting meditation research; optimal ways to combine one’s own personal contemplative practice with meditation research; and other aspects of professional development.


The Institute is a quasi-retreat in which opportunities for deep dialogue across disciplines, as well as inquiry through first-person meditation practice, are optimized. Formal mindfulness/awareness meditation practice, with appropriate instruction, and periods of silence, are an integral part of the program, allowing all concerned to have an extended first-hand experience of what is involved practically speaking in engaging in contemplative practice, and the challenges of honoring and learning from first-person experience.

In addition to the daily meditation sessions that will take place morning and evening, there will also be a day-long “mini-retreat” led by the contemplative faculty to extend and deepen the experience, understanding, and challenges of meditation practice. The natural beauty and cloistered atmosphere of the venue, coupled with the informal and collegial nature of the gathering all contribute to a relaxed but vigorous community of intention and mutual respect. The Faculty will consist of scientists, clinicial researchers, Buddhists and other contemplative practitioner/scholars and teachers. The meeting will be restricted to 150 participants, as innovative and interdisciplinary scientific conversations and potential collaborations and new projects are more likely to develop successfully with a limited number of committed participants.


The Summer Research Institute will be held at the Garrison Institute, a former Capuchin monastery overlooking the Hudson River, 50 miles north of New York City. Please see the Garrison Institute website for more details: www.garrisoninstitute.org.


The Summer Research Institute will begin on the afternoon of Thursday, June 6, and continue for 6 days, ending on the morning of Friday, June 12, 2008.


Click on the links below for a biography of the faculty members.

  • James Austin, M.D., University of Missouri Health Sciences Center
  • Susan Bauer-Wu, Ph.D., R.N., Emory University
  • Michel Bitbol, L’Ecole Polytechnic-Paris and CREA, France
  • Sylvia Boorstein, Ph.D., L.C.S.W
  • James Carmody, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Georges Dreyfus, Ph.D., Williams College
  • Sona Dimidjian, Ph.D., University of Colorado, Boulder
  • John D. Dunne, Ph.D., Emory University
  • Wendy Farley, Ph.D., Emory University
  • Jacquelynne Eccles, Ph.D., University of Michigan
  • Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Jeremy R. Gray, Ph.D., Yale University
  • Joan Halifax Roshi, Ph.D., Upaya Zen Center
  • David Hykes, MFA, Harmonic Presence Foundation
  • Amishi P. Jha, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania.
  • Alfred W. Kaszniak, Ph.D., University of Arizona
  • Barry Kerzin, M.D., Namgyal Monastery
  • Bodhin Kjolhede, Roshi, Abbott Rochester Zen Center
  • Anne C. Klein, Ph.D., Rice University
  • Marc Lewis, Ph.D., University of Toronto
  • Antoine Lutz, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • David E. Meyer, Ph.D., University of Michigan
  • Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Roshi, Abbot of Dotoku-ji
  • Luiz Pessoa, Ph.D., University of Indiana
  • Matthieu Ricard, Ph.D., Shechen Monastery
  • Sharon Salzberg, Insight Meditation Society
  • Clifford Saron, Ph.D., Center for Mind and Brain, University of California at Davis
  • Emma Seppala, M.A., Stanford University
  • Tania Singer, Ph.D., Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Functional Imaging Laboratory, University College London
  • Neil D. Theise, M.D., Beth Israel Medical Center
  • Evan Thompson, Ph.D., University of Toronto
  • Alan Wallace, Ph.D., Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies
  • Philip David Zelazo, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
  • Application

    Attendance at the Summer Research Institute involves a competitive online application process which will open on January 15, 2008 and will close on February 28, 2008. No applications will be accepted before the application period opens and no late applications will be accepted. Notification of acceptance will begin in early April 2008. The application process is online only. No paper applications, either mailed or faxed, will be accepted.

    Who Should Attend

    Scientific Attendees:
    • Research Fellows
      Trainees, including undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows conducting research in neuroscience, clinical science or intervention research and/or biomedicine will be considered “Research Fellows”.
    • Senior Investigators
      Established academic researchers in these same areas who hold university or college faculty appointments (full-time, clinical or adjunct) at the level of Assistant Professor or above will be considered “Senior Investigators”.
      Other professional groups (e.g. clinicians/therapists) who are independent practitioners will also fall into this category.
    Contemplative Attendees:
    • Research Fellows
      Dharma students or other students at the undergraduate, graduate or postdoctoral level studying contemplative traditions, philosophy, or humanities will be considered “Research Fellows”.
    • Senior Investigators
      Contemplative scholars, teachers or researchers who hold a faculty or comparable position will be considered “Senior Investigators”.