By 2044, more than half of the US population will belong to a racial or ethnic minority group, and health disparities exist between minority groups and the general population for many health conditions. Diverse contemplative sanghas are emerging that serve underrepresented populations to support social action, multiculturalism, and safe social spaces to address effects of oppression. Results from contemplative neuroscientific studies are suggested to generalize to the greater population; however, findings may not be representative due to the demographics of practitioners, who are mostly drawn from Caucasian-American and Asian monastic populations. These demographics parallel larger trends within scientific studies that tend to include White,
well-educated, high income participants. Through community-engaged dialogue with the highly diverse East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) in Oakland, CA, we are culturally adapting research procedures to key groups including racial/ethnic minorities, the LGBTQI population, persons with disabilities, and the fat community. I will review literature within cultural neuroscience that demonstrates the impact of race/ethnicity on neural functioning within cognitive and affective processes (including object, self-referential, emotion, and empathic processing). Further, I will
describe how working with diverse populations impacts both the process and content of research, respectively, through community-engaged approaches and developing novel neuroimaging paradigms. Finally, I will present novel approaches to contemplative neuroscience questions, which use multivariate methods to harness spatial and temporal information within functional MRI data (e.g., pattern classification and pattern similarity analysis), and are more amenable to representing diverse mental states both within and between individuals.
Helen Weng, PhD
University of California, San Francisco
Convening Faculty, Fellow, Grantee, Reviewer
Helen Y. Weng, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist, and her research focuses on the neural mechanisms of how meditation practices may improve social behavior and mental health. Her … MORE