Changing the Brain Part II

Changing the Brain Part II


The ability of the brain to change through experience, a capacity known as neuroplasticity, allows for exciting possibilities of human development and transformation. This session explored the implications of neuroplasticity in the areas of mental training, attention, emotion regulation and compassion. Richard Davidson provided a broad overview of the impact of mental training in altering brain circuitry and behavior relevant to attention and emotion regulation. The effects of mindfulness and loving-kindness/compassion practices on cortical and limbic functions will be described, as well as new findings on alterations of brain circuitry during sleep and epigenetics. Tania Singer introduced a model developed for a one-year compassion intervention program that consists of training in attention, interoceptive awareness, perspective taking and meta-cognition, loving-kindness, prosocial motivation and acceptance of difficult emotions. She then provided empirical evidence for affective brain plasticity after a one-week training of empathy as compared to compassion and loving-kindness. Overall, research in contemplative neuroscience suggests that mental training produces highly specific and enduring effects on brain function and behavior. What are the limits of neuroplasticity, and what does this mean for human potential? 

  • Dialogue 26
    27 sessions
  • January 19, 2013
    Drepung Monastery, Mundgod, India
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Tania Singer

Tania Singer, PhD, received her PhD in psychology from Freie Universität Berlin in 2000 and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin until 2002. Afterwards, she conducted research on the neural foundations of empathy and fairness at the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience in London from 2002–2005 and at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in London from 2005–2006. In the same year, Tania took up the position of Assistant Professor of Social Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, where she also became Co-Director of the Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research in 2007 and Inaugural Chair of Social Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics in 2008. Since 2010, she has been the Director of the Department of Social Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. Using a multi-method and interdisciplinary approach from areas such as neuroscience, developmental and social psychology, psychobiology, and economics, she investigates the foundations of human social behavior. More specifically, she is interested in the developmental, neural, and hormonal mechanisms underlying social cognition; social and moral emotions such as empathy, compassion, envy, revenge, and fairness; and emotion-regulation capacities and their role in social decision making. She co-organized the Mind and Life XX Conference “Altruism and Compassion in Economic Systems” in Zurich in 2010, and was recently elected as a Mind and Life board member and member of the Mind and Life European Committee.