Neuroscientist, philosopher, and Mind and Life co-founder Francisco Varela (1946-2001) believed that contemplative training offered modern science novel methods for investigating the depth of human experience. In his vision, contemplative training such as meditation not only provided a new domain for scientific study, but also offered resources for advancing scientific models of consciousness, emotion, and cognitive processing.

Named in his honor, The Francisco J. Varela Grants for Contemplative Research are grants of up to $15,000 awarded annually to research scientists who have attended the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute. These grants fund scientific and scholarly examinations of contemplative techniques, with the ultimate goal that findings will provide greater insight into the mechanisms of contemplative practice and its application for reducing human suffering.

 

2016 Varela Grant Recipients:

Katherine Lenger
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Is mindfulness only for the fortunate? The development and dissemination of a brief home-based mindfulness intervention to low-income couples

Sara Lewis
Wellesley College
Navigating the end of life among Tibetans in exile: A transnational ethnographic study

Jacqueline Lutz
Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School, Dept. of Psychiatry
How does self-compassion influence pain and self-related functioning in patients with chronic pain? A pilot RCT trial combining fMRI and experience sampling

Lauren Ministero
The University at Buffalo
An action phase model of compassion: Predictors and effects of helping goal commitment

Sarah Priddy
University of Utah
The impact of a mindfulness-based intervention on opioid misuse during pregnancy: A mixed methods pilot RCT

Joseph Therriault
McGill University
Investigating the impact of yoga on brain aging: A randomized controlled trial

Noga Zerubavel
Duke University
Staying present: Developing an empirically guided mindfulness-based intervention for transdiagnostic dissociation

 

US Grants

Adrienne Adler
Wake Forest School of Medicine
The effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and heart rate variability

Noopur Amin
University of California–Berkeley
Neural and endocrine mechanisms mediating prosociality

Spencer Fix
University of North Carolina–Charlotte
Tracking the neural network interaction changes associated with the initiation and maintenance of regular meditation practice with longitudinal EEG data

Simon Goldberg
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Improving the measurement of mindfulness: Validation of observer-rated and self-report measures of mindfulness training

Yuval Hadash
University of Haifa
The Meta-Awareness Task (MAT): A novel behavioral measurement methodology of mindfulness

Adam Hanley
Florida State University
Dissecting de-automatization: The effect of mindfulness training on unconscious habit formation

Sucharit Katyal
University of Minnesota
The neural bases of heightened awareness to the present moment

Brianna Morseth
University of California–Santa Barbara
From egocentric to ecocentric: Pro-social and pro-environmental actualizations of mindfulness at an intensive monastic retreat

Jessica Peters
Rhode Island Hospital; Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Creating implicit and phenomenological assessments of nonjudgmental orientation to experience

Jennifer Pokorny
University of California–Davis
Socio-emotional effects of Insight meditation retreat participation on practitioners and their close others

William Rubel
University of British Columbia
Unseaming the secular: Poetry, process, and belief in the world

Helen Weng
University of California–San Francisco
A community-engaged approach to contemplative neuroscience in a diverse contemplative community


European Grants

(available to eligible applicants who have attended the European Summer Research Institute)

Katarzyna Bylow-Antkowiak
University of St Andrews, Scotland
Second person issues in contemplative life: Polite talk, teasing and debating dyads in a Tibetan Buddhist non-monastic educational setting

Anira Escrichs
University of Barcelona, Spain
Interplay between structural connectivity and resting-state dynamics in meditators

Enrico Fucci
Lyon Neuroscience Research Centre, France
Investigating modulation of compassion by self-related factors in expert and novice meditators: Behavioural and neuroendocrine correlates

Emily Hammond
University of Exeter, UK
Investigating the impact of mindfulness practice on embodied and subjective dimensions of emotion dynamics

Josipa Mihic
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences, Croatia
Towards caring and mindful schools model

Anne Maj van der Velden
Aarhus University, Denmark
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and maintenance antidepressant treatment: Differential mechanisms in the treatment of recurrent depression

Nina Vollbehr   
Center for Integrative Psychiatry, Lentis Mental Health Care, Groningen, the Netherlands
The effects of yoga-based therapy for patients with chronic mood and anxiety disorders: A randomized controlled trial

US Grants

Daniel Berry
Virginia Commonwealth University
Bridging the empathy gap: Effects of brief mindfulness training on helping outgroup members in need   

James Floman
University of British Columbia
The effects of mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation on teachers’ emotional abilities, compassion, and prosocial classroom engagement

Matthew Hirshberg
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Mindfulness for pre-service teachers

Michael Hove
Harvard Medical School
Rhythm induced trance: Using repetitive auditory stimulation to facilitate states of absorption and promote insight

Yoona Kang
University of Pennsylvania
Synchronizing brains through lovingkindness meditation

Lindsey Knowles
University of Arizona
Mindfulness-based intervention to examine yearning and grief specific rumination as mediators of grief outcomes in bereaved individuals

Jeff Yanli Lin
Michigan State University
The effects of mindfulness on gender stereotype threat

Dylan Lott
University of Illinois at Chicago
An ethnographic analysis of the integration of contemplatives in neuroimaging laboratories

Jeffrey Proulx
Oregon State University
Is mindful meditation effective and culturally relevant for native people?

Juan Santoyo
Brown University
Neurofeedback informed meditation techniques (NIMT) for modulating somatosensory alpha activity and acute pain perception: A novel paradigm for treatment development

Véronique Taylor
University de Montreal
Mindfulness and the neurophysiological substrates of fear conditioning


European Grants

(available to eligible applicants who have attended the European Summer Research Institute)

Corina Aguilar-Raab
Institute of Medical Psychology, University Hospital Heidelberg
The effects of compassion meditation on health and social interaction in depressed patients

Tim Gard
Maastricht University
Assessing resilience of brain functional networks and fluid intelligence in aging meditators: A combined TMS-fMRI study

Bergljot Gjelsvik
University of Oxford
A translational approach to short-circuiting on-going suicidal vulnerability: Understanding brain mechanisms of action

Terje Sparby
Bender Institute of Neuroimaging/University of Giessen
Varieties of contemplative experience: Anthroposophy

Eileen Cardillo
University of Pennsylvania
Neural mechanisms of self-transcendence: Insights from noninvasive brain stimulation

Rachel Jacobs
University of Illinois–Chicago
Mindfulness Intervention to study the Neurobiology of Depression (MIND)

Emily Lindsay
Carnegie Mellon University
Mechanisms of mindfulness and stress resilience: A mobile app mindfulness training study

Lisa May
University of Oregon
Does meditation cause pain relief through endogenous opioids?

John Plass
Northwestern University
Neural dynamics of attention and meta-attention during meditation

Chivon Powers and Laura Schmalzl
University of California–Davis; University of California–San Diego
What is it about yoga? Isolating the effect of structured movement sequences on cognition, interoception, and stress markers

Sean Pritchard
Fielding Graduate University
Mindfulness and beyond: A qualitative study of advanced Mahasi meditators’ experience

Kathrine Shepherd
Kent State University
Examining the relationship of meditation experience to the neural correlates of spontaneous emotion regulation

Sarah Short
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
The effects of contemplative training on brain structure and function in six-year-old children

Elizaveta Solomonova
University of Montreal
Embodied dreaming and procedural memory consolidation following daytime nap in Vipassana meditators and non-meditating controls: A neurophenomenological study

Fadel Zeidan
Wake Forest School of Medicine
The role of endogenous opioidergic systems in mindfulness meditation-related pain relief

Dev Ashish
University of Arizona
Self-compassion and the need of self-preservation

Aviva Berkovich-Ohana
Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Exploring mindfulness induced state and trait alterations in “self” networks: A combined fMRI-MEG neurophenomenological study

Karen Bluth
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
Exploring the impact of a mindfulness intervention on adolescents’ self-compassion and emotional well-being

Nathan Fisher and Christopher Kaplan
Brown University Medical School
The varieties of contemplative experience

Kieran Fox
University of British Columbia
The neural basis of enhanced introspective accuracy in long-term meditation practitioners

Michael Goldstein
University of Arizona
Effects of yogic breathing on sleep and well-being in college students: Exploration of psychophysiological mechanisms

Elizabeth Goodman Gurfein
PGSP – Stanford Psy. D. Consortium
Compassion cultivation for physicians-in-training

Robert Goodman
Virginia Commonwealth University
The effect of MBSR on episodic and prospective memory function in aging adults

Monika Lohani
Brandeis University
A longitudinal training study to delineate the specific causal effects of open monitoring versus focused attention techniques on emotional regulation skills

Marina Lopez-Sola
University of Colorado
Neural effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in remitted patients with chronic history of depression

Hans Melo
University of Toronto
Making the right choice: Combining neuroimaging, computational modeling, and first-person report methodologies to unveil neural mechanisms of human flourishing

Jordan Quaglia
Virginia Commonwealth University
From intra- to inter-personal: Effects of MBSR on emotion regulation in social contexts

Xioadan Yan
Massachusetts General Hospital
Intrinsic neural characteristics predict the effectiveness of MBSR training on fear extinction and stress reduction

Paul Condon
Northeastern University
Compassion- and mindfulness-based meditation: Nurturing pro-social behavior and social networks

Jessica Creery
Northwestern University
Can supercharged memory consolidation during sleep boost compassion and pro-sociality?

Julia Ann Keller
University of New Mexico
An investigation of the impact of mindfulness training on the development of attention and working memory in children

Michael Lifshitz
McGill University
Effects of open monitoring on visual search: Evidence from eye-tracking, electrophysiology, and phenomenology

Fadel Zeidan
Wake Forest School of Medicine
Brain mechanisms distinguishing mindfulness meditation-related pain relief from placebo analgesia

Kristin Zernicke
University of Calgary
The eCALM Study: eTherapy for Cancer AppLying Mindfulness

Micah Allen
Aarhus University, Århus, Denmark
The neurophenomenology of mindfulness: Metacognitive awareness as a mechanism for adaptive change

Gaelle Desbordes
Boston University
Neural and physiological correlates of Tibetan energy-channel meditation in highly trained practitioners

Jessica Flynn
Kent State University
Effects of training in lovingkindness meditation on underlying approach and avoidance motivations

Tim Gard
Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, Giessen, Germany
The effects of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy on depression, pain, body awareness and brain structure and connectivity in patients with chronic pain and comorbid depression

Andrea Hayes
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Differential effects of mindfulness and yogic breathing on cognitive and emotional processes

Britta Holzel
Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, Giessen, Germany
Do white matter changes contribute to improved fear extinction following mindfulness training?

Daniel Levinson
University Wisconsin–Madison
Breath counting: developing a behavioral measure of mindfulness

Kristen Lyons
University of Minnesota
The effects of mindfulness meditation training in early childhood

Jose Raul Naranjo
University Medical Center Freiburg
EEG spectral signatures of the impact of mindfulness meditation on perceptual-motor awareness and self-agency

Eva Oberle
University of British Columbia
Mindfulness-based education in the elementary school classroom: Individual and joint effects of a teacher and student program on children’s classroom behaviors, peer relations, classroom hierarchy, and stress reactivity

Autumn Wiley-Hill
University of Arizona
Exploring the effects of mindfulness meditation on self-control failure

Rael Baruch Cahn
University of California–San Diego
Focused attention versus open monitoring meditation and self-referential brain processing

Brenda Dyer
University of British Columbia
Relational processes in learning mindfulness: An action-theoretical perspective

Melissa Ellamil
University of British Columbia
Investigating the neural basis of spontaneous thought with real-time fMRI and contemplative mental training

Norm Farb
University of Toronto
How mindfulness impacts selective attention during emotional challenge

Ellen Katz
University of Toronto
Attending to clinical social work practice: Mindful attention as holistic competence background and relevant literature

Laura Kiken
Virginia Commonwealth University
The effect of mindfulness on physiological awareness: Blood glucose estimates and disease management in type 2 diabetics

Emma Lawrence
King’s College, London
The impact of evaluative vs. experiential self-focus on emotional response

David Lipschitz
University of Utah
Effects of mind-body interventions in cancer supportive care: Oxytocin as a biological correlate of well-being and connectedness

Roisin O’Donnell
University of Arizona
The effectiveness of MBSR as an intervention among elderly family caregivers of persons with neurocognitive disorders

Tucker Peck
University of Arizona
The effects of mindfulness meditation on sleep electrophysiology and duration

David Perlman
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Hedonic sustainability in the BOLD response to selfish and altruistic rewards

Baljinder Sahdra
University of California–Davis
Nonattachment, group identity, and memory of historical injustices

Zev Schuman-Olivier
Harvard Medical School/Mass General Hospital
Development of mindfulness-based real-time fMRI neurofeedback for smoking cessation: A preliminary study

Meredith Terry
Duke University
Exploring the role of self-compassion in the establishment and maintenance of a meditation practice

Jessica Tipscord
University of Oregon
Mindfulness training for parents and children

Erin Walsh
University of Kentucky
Effects of a short-term mindfulness intervention on depression and immunity

Cecilia Westbrook
Carnegie Mellon University
Mindfulness and response inhibition: Behavioral, neural, and subjective correlates in smoking cessation

Nicholas Van Dam
University at Albany
Exploring the impact of meditation on stress and psychopathology: Attentional allocation as a potential mechanism of active change following meditation training

Nathaniel Lepp and Ellen Darling
Brown University Medical School
School-based mindfulness training in middle school and college students

Susanne Leiberg
University of Zurich
The neural and behavioral correlates of a neurofeedback-based metta meditation training

Sean Barnes
Binghamton University
Identifying the mechanisms of action in MBCT

Holly Rau
University of Utah
Application of the neurovisceral integration model to mindfulness: Implications for stress regulation and the development of insomnia

Brooke Lavelle-Heineberg
Emory University
Study to design and assess the validity of the Emory Meditation Practice, Tradition, and Experience (EMPTE) scale

Aviva Berkovich-Ohana
Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Meditation and nonlinear neurodynamics: From state to trait

Julie Brefczynski-Lewis
West Virginia University
Changing our perception of others through compassion meditation

Lisa Flook
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Mindfulness-based kindness curriculum for preschool children: A replication and extension

Brian Galla
University of Pennsylvania
Examining the psychological effects of intensive meditation retreats for teenage youth

Sheila Garland
Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Holy Cross Site
An objective comparison of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of insomnia in individuals with cancer using wrist actigraphy: A randomized non-inferiority trial

Wendy Hasenkamp
Emory University
Real-time dynamics of cognitive processing during meditation: A subject-driven fMRI investigation

Brandon King and Anthony Zanesco
University of California–Davis
The interrelationship between cognitive control and affect in an intensive Vipassana retreat

Teresa Sivilli
Emory University
The FACE Study: Faces, Attention, Compassion, and Emotion

Joanna Arch
University of California–Los Angeles
Different approaches to emotion regulation: MBSR and CBT in the treatment of anxiety disorders

Jennifer Daubenmier
University of California–San Francisco
Effects of mindfulness meditation on cell aging processes

Eric Garland
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
Biopsychosocial assessment of a mindfulness-oriented treatment of alcohol dependence

Teresa Hawkes
University of Oregon
A randomized controlled single-blinded pilot trial to compare effects of concentrative sitting meditation to moving meditation (tai chi) training on attentional network efficiency

Britta Holzel
Massachusetts General Hospital
Does mindfulness training change the processing of social threat?

Elizabeth Hoge
Massachusetts General Hospital, General Clinical Research Center
Neuropeptide levels in meditation

Michael Hove
Florida Atlantic University
The dissolution of self during rhythmic motor behavior

Kristen Jastrowski Mano
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
MBSR for the treatment of pediatric chronic pain

Anthony King
University of Michigan
Efficacy of a 16-week mindfulness-based group for combat PTSD in recruiting veterans, and pilot effects on threat detection and emotion regulation neurocircuitry

Zev Rosen
University of Pennsylvania
Neural effects of mindfulness training on adults with ADD

Baljinder Sahdra
University of California–Davis
Measurement and correlates of nonattachment

Laura Van Wielingen
Tom Baker Cancer Centre–Holy Cross Site, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
How does MBSR improve psychological functioning for cancer patients?

Anna-leila Williams
Yale University
Development and testing of determinants of meditation practice

Fadel Zeidan
Duke University
The influence of meditative experience on pain perception

Judson Brewer
Yale University School of Medicine
Mindfulness training as treatment and mechanistic probe for drug addiction

Christopher Brown
University of Manchester
Electrophysiological and behavioral assessment of a mindfulness-based pain management program for patients with chronic pain

Catherine Crane and Thorsten Barnhofer 
Warneford Hospital, Oxford, UK
Using MBCT to prevent relapse to suicidality in patients suffering from ongoing depressive symptoms

Sandra DiVitale 
Emory University School of Medicine
Effects of MBSR on mind and brain in returning Iraqi veterans

Radhi Raja
University SIM, Singapore
Study of mindfulness meditation on stress reduction and attention regulation in adolescents with mild learning disabilities

Manish Saggar
University of Texas–Austin
Developing a computational model for meditation using cross cortical synchrony in EEG data

Marieke van Vugt
University of Pennsylvania
Mathematical modeling of acute effects of meditation on cognition

Helen Weng
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Compassion meditation vs. cognitive reappraisal as emotion regulation strategies to negative stimuli: An fMRI investigation

Jaskirat (Heather) Wild
Oregon Health and Sciences University, School of Medicine
White tantric kundalini yoga: physiological, behavioral, and EEG effects of an intensive and immersive yogic meditation experience

Willoughby Britton
Brown University
Mindfulness-based interventions for depression: Possible neurophysiological mechanisms

Norman Farb
University of Toronto
Dissociable neural modes of self-reference and emotion regulation

Durwin Foster
University of British Columbia
Mindfulness, mind-wandering & meta-awareness: Exploration of inter-relationships among variables

Joshua Grant
University of Montreal
The neurobiology of mindfulness meditation for the control of pain

Brent Hughes
Columbia University
Meditation-induced changes in anticipation and experience of pain

Cendri Hutcherson and Emma Seppala 
Stanford University
Investigating the correlates and consequences of directed loving-kindness meditation

Sahib Khalsa 
University of Iowa
Neural systems supporting interoceptive awareness in experienced and beginning meditators

Anthony King 
University of Michigan
Feasibility, clinical acceptability, and efficacy of a mindfulness-based group therapy intervention for PTSD

Deidre Kolarick Reis 
Yale University
Regulating emotion in social situations: An fMRI study of experienced Buddhist meditators

Molly Stewart Lawlor
University of British Columbia
Effectiveness of the Mindfulness Education Program on children’s social-emotional competence, psychological well-being, and stress reactivity

Adam Safron
University of Pennsylvania
Neural effects of mindfulness meditation training on working memory

Michael Spezio
California Institute of Technology
Trust and Christian contemplative practice: A social neuroscientific study of spiritual capital in a contemplative tradition

David Vago
University of Utah
The effects of mindfulness meditative training on impairments in affect regulation associated with the experience and anticipation of pain in fibromyalgia patients

Willoughby Britton
University of Arizona
Mindfulness-based interventions for depression: possible neurophysiological mechanisms

Jason T. Buhle
Columbia University
The functional plasticity of attention

Ryan T. Canolty
University of California–Berkeley
Understanding the neural correlates of attention

Arnaud Delorme
University of California–San Diego
Neural correlates of meta-consciousness events as experienced during Zen meditation practice

Philippe Goldin
Stanford University
Mindfulness meditation for social anxiety disorder: Examining the neural and psychological mechanisms of therapeutic change

Patricia Jennings
University of California–San Francisco
Cultivating Emotional Balance Classroom Project

Brian N. Pasley
University of California–Berkeley
Investigation of attentional modulation in visual cortex during meditation

Elizabeth Kimbrough Pradhan
University of Maryland School of Medicine
MBSR, well-being, and immune changes among rheumatoid arthritis patients

Catherine Ortner
University of Toronto
Effects of mindfulness meditation training on attentional control in neutral and emotional contexts

Hilary A. Tindle
Harvard Medical School
Mindfulness meditation for reduction of smoking craving: An fMRI investigation