Karen is a PhD Neuroscience student at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Her current PhD project tested the hypotheses that attention and well-being can improve in novices with mindfulness meditation training. Her study investigated changes in brain activity associated with attention after mindfulness training, as well as cortical volume, thickness and surface changes of the brain associated with attention after mindfulness training. My areas of interest are contemplative practices, structural and functional neuro-imaging, and human brain mapping.
She hopes to make a difference in my country and in Africa. Neuroscience and brain imaging are very recent developments on the African continent. She was the first student to conduct an fMRI experiment in Pretoria. Teaching students from different faculties about imaging and developing our potential in mapping the brain, here and in Africa, is currently one of her primary objectives.
African contemplative practices and mindfulness are relatively unexplored in this country and it is therefore an equally primary and personal objective to grow this field. South Africa is fraught with poverty, crime, racial tension and violence. We have been celebrated internationally when we’ve demonstrated our strong desire to heal past tragedies and embrace our cultural differences. She believes African mindfulness-based interventions may provide a significant tool for healing and well-being in South Africa, both at an individual and societal level. She also believes that African contemplative practices could play a significant role in peace, reconciliation and social justice in South Africa and Africa, and importantly, contribute significantly as the third partner at the dialogue table between Science and Buddhism.
I served on the planning committee of the first ever contemplative neuroscience conference in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2014. I also served on the Logistical and Program Committees for the first African Mind & Life dialogue with his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama that was scheduled to take place in Botswana in August 2017. I’m currently the facilitator of Africa Mind & Brain, the first ever African contemplative neuroscience lab at the Neuroscience Institute of the University of Cape Town, South Africa.