Change your Mind. Change the World.

How neuroscience is informing well-being

In 1992, the Dalai Lama personally challenged Dr. Richard Davidson, of the University of Wisconsin, to investigate how well-being could be nurtured through the amazing insights from neuroscience. Since then, Dr. Davidson and his team have made remarkable progress, publishing over 290 scientific articles and leading the world in this field of research. As the Founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM), and named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2006, Dr. Davidson aims to cultivate well-being and relieve suffering through a scientific understanding of the mind. The research conducted at CIHM is a response to the world's pressing challenges including chronic disease, mental illness, and poor emotional balance. CIHM is committed to providing evidence-based solutions to strategies that can promote well-being and decrease suffering in children and adults. The CIHM's ultimate aim is to contribute to the movement toward a kinder, more compassionate world. They do so through three pathways: research, innovation, and movement. Their research findings hope to increase the understanding about mind and how well-being can be cultivated while the innovation pathway aims to develop and disseminate tools that cultivate well-being. Lastly, the movement pathway creates a global shift in people's hearts and minds that embraces the meme that well-being is a skill.

No other organization has the visionary leadership, immense body of successful research to build upon, over $25M of neuroimaging research technology at the Waisman Center, and the tremendous infrastructure and reputation of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, one of the world's top academic learning institutions. Their team includes scientists, postdocs, graduate students, and research support staff. Dr. Davidson collaborates with over 35 entities on the University of Wisconsin campus and medical school in addition to researchers across the country and world. Dr. Davidson's extensive research has already provided the initial evidence that well-being can be cultivated. More research will take these initial findings to the next level and provide the evidence that will impact the ways we teach children, manage organizations, treat patients, and more.

Current research includes:

  • Children's Success: CIHM has pioneered and continues to be research trailblazers in ensuring that children are given the best chance to succeed in life through studying the impact of building social-emotional skills. Research includes studying the impact of a Kindness Curriculum in preschool children on attention and empathy, the impact of video games in middle-school children that are designed to build skills in empathy and attention, and the impact of early trauma on young children. Dr. Davidson plans to scale these studies and build the evidence that will ignite innovation and the transformation of how our children learn and what they need to flourish in life.

  • Reducing Suffering: Chronic illness -- from asthma to heart disease and more -- accounts for 75% of the $26 trillion plus dollars spent on healthcare each year. CIHM is investigating many research questions about chronic diseases that remain such as: What role does emotional stress play in inflammation? Can learning skills that reduce psychological stress impact the symptoms of chronic disease -- or even prevent it? Can learning well-being reduce inflammation?

  • Behavioral Epigenetics: Think of each gene having its own individual volume control that range from low to high. CIHM reported new findings, that establish for the first time, that one day of intensive mindfulness meditation practice in experienced practitioners will down-regulate genes involved in inflammation. The implications of this are striking for they suggest that mental training to cultivate well-being produces enduring transformation at the level of gene expression.


Dr. Richard J. Davidson is a renowned neuroscientist and one of the world's leading experts on the impact of contemplative practices, such as meditation, on the brain understanding the mind, emotions and how to nurture well-being. He is the founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is perhaps best known for his groundbreaking work in studying emotion and the brain. A friend and confidante of the Dalai Lama, he is a highly sought after expert and speaker internationally. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2006. Dr. Davidson has published hundreds of scientific papers and edited 14 books. A New York Times bestselling author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain, he has been featured widely in popular media, including ABC's Nightline, National Public Radio, Time magazine,Newsweek, O, the Oprah magazine, PBS's the Charlie Rose Show, Harvard Business Review, and many other national and international news outlets. Dr. Davidson is the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and the Director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior -- both at the UW-Madison, where he has been a faculty member since 1984.

Dr. Davidson not only studies well-being but also puts in into practice! Within the lab and the CIHM, Dr. Davidson and his team open meetings with practices that cultivate attention, host regular sessions to practice mindfulness techniques and continually pursues a culture of well-being. In his own home, he also has a meditation space in his study. Dr. Davidson believes that these practices can be integrated into work in a meaningful way that cultivates compassion.


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