Catherine Kerr, PhD was director of translational neuroscience at the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University. Her neuroscience research focused on neural dynamics underlying embodied attention and the sense of touch. Her team was the first to publish results showing how embodied attention changes cortical rhythms in the “touch cortex” (primary somatosensory cortex) and how mindfulness is associated with enhanced modulation of these embodied attentional rhythms. In addition to these neurophysiological studies, she drew on her background as a qualitative researcher and investigator of placebo effects to pioneer methods for linking quantitative, neural studies with qualitative studies of patient experience. Her last research project focused on isolating neurophysiological, immunological and experiential mechanisms underlying cancer survivors’ reports of “energy” and vitality in contemplative practice.
Cathy Kerr passed away in 2016. Her sister, Sarah Kerr, wrote this obituary.
The Mind & Life Catherine Kerr Award for Courageous and Compassionate Science was established in 2016 in her memory.