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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Mind & Life Institute

My wife and I were for­tu­nate to con­duct recent­ly a mind train­ing exper­i­ment, in the form of a breath­ing & med­i­ta­tion retreat, with some neu­ro­sci­en­tists and Adam Engle, Co-Founder and Chair­man of the Mind & Life Insti­tute (nice name, isn’t it?)

The Mind and Life Dia­logues “start­ed in 1987 as an exper­i­ment to deter­mine whether a sci­en­tif­ic exchange could occur between mod­ern sci­ence and Bud­dhism. MLI has now spon­sored 14 dia­logues (between the Dalai Lama and neu­ro­sci­en­tists) over the last 20 years. In that time MLI has become a rec­og­nized world leader in the emerg­ing sci­en­tif­ic inves­ti­ga­tion of the effects of con­tem­pla­tive prac­tices on the brain, behav­ior, and the trans­la­tion of this data into effec­tive tools to ben­e­fit all peo­ple every­where.”

A few notes from our con­ver­sa­tion with Adam

  • - He helped launch the Mind & Life Insti­tute to build a sci­ence-based field of inter­dis­ci­pli­nary study to inves­ti­gate the appli­ca­tions of the “data­base of prac­tices” that Bud­dhism and some Chris­t­ian tra­di­tions have accu­mu­lat­ed over milen­nia
  • - From ear­ly on it became clear that they need­ed to engage West­ern neu­ro­sci­en­tists in order to be cred­i­ble and become a real East-West bridge with poten­tial to reach main­stream soci­ety. You can see below a par­tial list of par­tic­i­pants in their most recent meet­ing, 2 weeks ago
  • - They are very hap­py that Sharon Beg­ley’s book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain has become a non-fic­tion Best­seller, since it is based on one of the Mind & Life Dia­logues (more on Books on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty)
  • - He is glad to see the inroads that Mind­ful­ness-Based Stress Reduc­tion (MBSR) is mak­ing in the med­ical world thanks to sol­id research. He believes the Cor­po­rate Train­ing and Lead­er­ship mar­ket is also going to become very inter­est­ed in this tech­nique for stress man­age­ment. The main bot­tle­neck for growth? the exist­ing num­ber of qual­i­fied instruc­tors does not meet the increas­ing demand.

The Insti­tute spon­sors research in a num­ber of ways, and they just announced that the 3rd annu­al Sci­en­tists Retreat will take place at the Insight Med­i­ta­tion Soci­ety (IMS) in Barre, Mass­a­chu­setts, Jan­u­ary 8–15, 2008.

  • - “This course has been orga­nized by sci­en­tists, for sci­en­tists. Its goals are to help researchers in the mind sci­ences expe­ri­ence in-depth train­ing in med­i­ta­tion and explore ways in which a rig­or­ous and sys­tem­at­ic approach to intro­spec­tion can inform research. We con­sid­er this to be a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to advance the sci­en­tif­ic study of the human mind. Vipas­sana is an ancient method of intro­spec­tion that read­i­ly con­forms to the spir­it of empir­i­cal sci­ence. It is sim­ply a means of train­ing the mind to be more keen­ly aware of sen­so­ry phe­nom­e­na and the flow of thought.

For con­text, some of the sci­en­tists in their last Dia­logue are:

  • - Richard J. David­son, Ph.D., Vilas Research Pro­fes­sor and William James Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­o­gy and Psy­chi­a­try, Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son
  • - Paul Ekman, Ph.D., Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­o­gy Emer­i­tus in the Depart­ment of Psy­chi­a­try at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at San Fran­cis­co; Con­sul­tant (see our arti­cle on Improv­ing Your Brain Tools: Read­ing Emo­tion­al Mes­sages in the Face)
  • - Martha Farah, Ph.D., Wal­ter H. Annen­berg Pro­fes­sor in the Nat­ur­al Sci­ences, Direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science, Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia
  • - Wolf Singer, M.D., Ph.D., Direc­tor at the Max Planck Insti­tute for Brain Research in Frank­furt and Found­ing Direc­tor of the Frank­furt Insti­tute for Advanced Stud­ies (FIAS)
  • - Anton Zeilinger, Ph.D., Pro­fes­sor at the Physics Depart­ment of Vien­na Uni­ver­si­ty and at the Insti­tute of Quan­tum Optics and Quan­tum Infor­ma­tion of the Aus­tri­an Acad­e­my of Sci­ences
  • - Arthur Zajonc, Ph.D., Andrew Mel­lon Pro­fes­sor of Physics and Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Stud­ies, Amherst Col­lege

You can read more on Mind­ful­ness-Based Stress Reduc­tion (MBSR) and oth­er stress man­age­ment tech­niques, Stress Man­age­ment Work­shop for Inter­na­tion­al Wom­en’s Day and On being pos­i­tive.

(PS: as I was about to pub­lish this post, some­why the com­put­er crashed and I lost the draft. What a great learn­ing opportunity…I promise I had to put all my breath­ing & men­tal train­ing into play to man­age my emo­tions and come to appre­ci­ate the won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ties that com­put­ers, even Win­dows-based ones, bring us…)

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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