Exploring Neuroplasticity Part II

Exploring Neuroplasticity Part II


This session delved further into the brain circuits underlying emotion and social behavior, exploring how neuroscientists approach these topics. Richard Davidson first introduced the field of affective neuroscience and focus on brain mechanisms of emotional learning and emotion regulation. He discussed the involvement of these circuits in producing craving and attachment, and how contemplative training can impact these circuits while cultivating emotional balance. Tania Singer complemented this view by introducing the field of social neuroscience, focusing on the questions of how people relate to and understand each other. She distinguished cognitive perspective taking from concepts of emotion contagion, empathy and compassion; the former represents a cognitive route to the understanding of others, the latter a motivational and affective one. Compassion is closely linked to a motivational system routed in affiliation and care, which in turn is associated with specific brain systems that help increase trust and reduce fear. Geshe Dadul Namgyal offered remarks from the Buddhist perspective on issues relating to affective and social neuroscience findings.

  • 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.