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New Brain Research Center Opens: What's The Dalai Lama Got To To With It?


Carbon-filled plastic electrodes can be used for simultaneous fMRI and EEG recording: ©Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging & BehaviorCarbon-filled plastic electrodes can be used for simultaneous fMRI and EEG recording: ©Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging & BehaviorA new center is opening today for the study of healthy minds; that's a change from the study of addicted, obsessed, and psychopathic minds.  It may seem odd that a deeply religious and spiritual person, in fact a spiritual leader, would be the inspiration for this new center, but the Dalai Lama did lay the seeds for this endeavor by the Unversity of Wisconson's Waisman Center - about 20 years ago.

Today, the Dalai Lama is celebrating the opening of The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) the latest department to be opened at the University of Wisconsin's Waisman Center, a scientific center focused on human development, developmental disabilities, and neurodegenerative diseases throughout the lifespan. 

It was a question posed by the Dalai Lama to Richard Davidson, a well-published neuroscientist, that piqued Davidson's curiosity....

"Scientists often study depression, anxiety, and fear, but why not devote your work to the cause of positive human qualities like happiness and compassion?"asked the Dalai Lama.

Davidson, who specializes in neuroplasticity, could not answer that question, a probe that ultimately led to what's become his scientific focus: the impact of meditation on neuroplasticity and behavior. Indeed he and other investigators have found through observing 'the brain on meditation' that the practice of meditation has positive effects on a variety of neuroendocrine, immune, and behavioral responses to stress, positive effects on attitudes towards others, social connectedness, and learning. (refs)

 

Psychology professor Richard Davidson, right, shares a laugh with the Dalai Lama and Buddhist monk Geshe Sopa: Waisman Center: Photo by Jeff MillerPsychology professor Richard Davidson, right, shares a laugh with the Dalai Lama and Buddhist monk Geshe Sopa: Waisman Center: Photo by Jeff Miller

 

Richard Davidson, who was named among Time Magazine's 100 most influential persons of 2006, will be the director of the CIHM and several other neuroscientists will be joining the research activities there.  This fall, CIHM will be training local fifth grade teachers to develop skills like patience and relaxation among their students.

The Dalai Lama is an advocate for scientific study and has even said that "he is prepared to give up any part of Buddism that is contradicted by scientific fact." Davidson, who says he is not a practicing Buddhist,  meditates every day and has built a meditation room right next to the brain imaging room at the new Center.  It's likely to be the only brain imaging room in the world next to a meditation center.

 

Waisman Center, Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, Customwire via AP