New Lecture on Compassion to focus on well-being, contemplative neuroscience

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Richard J. Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, will present the inaugural Lecture on Compassion, "Well-being is a Skill: Perspectives from Contemplative Neuroscience," at 4 p.m. on April 7 in Room 22 of the Biobehavioral Health Building on the University Park campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Davidson’s research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style, and methods to promote human flourishing, such as meditation and related contemplative practices. He is founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center and is the William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry.

Davidson’s lecture will highlight regions of the brain and their connections to other structures that reinforce self-regulation and, in turn, may play a role in overall well-being.

“This talk will present an overview of our work at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds that focuses on some of the fundamental components of well-being, and how they can be cultivated through mental training,” Davidson said. “One of the key conclusions of this body of research is that well-being is best conceptualized as a skill that can be enhanced through training.”

The Lectureship on Compassion was developed and funded by Mark Greenberg, holder of the Edna Peterson Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research, and his wife, Christa Turksma, a curriculum developer and teacher of mindfulness skills. The two have committed funds to the College of Health and Human Development to establish an annual forum, through which outstanding researchers and practitioners can share their findings and perspectives in the areas of awareness, compassion and empathy.

“Richard Davidson is the leading scientist in the world on the study of mindfulness and compassion,” Greenberg said. “He has conducted pioneering research on how meditative states affect brain activity and well-being.”

Greenberg said he is looking forward to the Compassion Lecture series attracting a variety of influential scientists to Penn State.

“The lecture signals a new era of interest in how neuroscience can inform principles and practices with potential to improve the well-being of both individuals and society,” Greenberg said.

Davidson received his doctorate from Harvard University in psychology. He has published more than 320 articles, numerous chapters and reviews, and edited 14 books. Davidson and Sharon Begley are co-authors of The Emotional Life of Your Brain, which Penguin published in 2012.

He is the recipient of numerous awards for his research including a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Scientist Award, a MERIT Award from NIMH, an Established Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders, the William James Fellow Award from the American Psychological Society, and the Hilldale Award from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In 2000, he received the most distinguished award for science given by the American Psychological Association — the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award. He is founding co-editor of the new American Psychological Association journal EMOTION and is past president of the Society for Research in Psychopathology and of the Society for Psychophysiological Research.

The College of Health and Human Development and the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center are hosts for the annual event.

For more information on the Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, visit prevention.psu.edu.

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Last Updated March 14, 2016