: 2014 Center for Mindfulness Conference


The John and Tussi Kluge Research Symposium

Watch the all-day John and Tussi Kluge Research Symposium live or on demand

The John and Tussi Kluge Research Symposium Online Live and On Demand Streaming

Watch this all-day symposium including slides and video of the presenter live during the 2014 Center for Mindfulness International Scientific Conference. Register now to get access to the live stream of this sessions, or watch the archived recording on demand anytime after the conference.


Thursday, April 3 - 8:00 am - 4:30 pm EST

The John and Tussi Kluge Research Symposium on Mindfulness:
Mindfulness and Compassion: Mechanisms, Models and More

Amishi Jha, PhD, Organizer

This full-day research symposium will offer a set of presentations examining mechanisms of action of mindfulness and compassion meditation training from the cognitive, affective, social, and clinical psychological and neuroscience perspectives. The themes of attention, altruism, and resilience, as well as cutting edge neural models of contemplative practice will be

Morning Presenters:

Jud Brewer, MD, PhD
Helen Weng, MS
Gaelle Desbordes, PhD

Afternoon Presenters:

David Vago, PhD
Amishi Jha, PhD

Learning Objectives:

  1. Apply the components and methods of developing and delivering mindfulness and compassion meditation training programs to various cohorts.
  2. Describe the use of cutting-edge neuroscience methods used to investigate the neural bases of contemplative training including event-related potentials, oscillatory neuroelectric profiles, and functional brain changes indexed by functional MRI.
  3. Describe models of how brain systems sensitive to craving, economic behavior, and working memory are altered when individuals engage in contemplative training.
  4. Describe frequently used cognitive neuroscience paradigms used to assess attention and working memory.
  5. Describe current findings on neural networks supporting salience, executive control, and affective meaning.
  6. Describe optimal design parameters and common pitfalls in contemplative training studies.


Building Resilience in High Stress Cohorts with Contemplative Training
Amishi Jha, PhD

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity or get through challenging periods without significant deleterious psychological or performance consequences. This presentation will discuss our recent efforts to offer contemplative training (involving mindfulness and compassion) to high stress cohorts of incarcerated youth, University Students, and military spouses who all suffer from their own unique challenges. While the specific stressors faced by these groups are quite different, the consequences of extended periods of stress on their ability to sustain attention, regulate mood, and protect themselves from mind-wandering are similarly problematic for each of these groups. I will discuss our neurocognitive results, which find that contemplative training protects against these negative consequences of stress


Please pay attention now (it may change your brain): psychological and neural mechanisms of mindfulness meditation.
Judson Brewer, MD, PhD

Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of interest in how contemplative practices such as meditation can inform science and how science can inform these practices. Recent advances in neuroscience have begun to unravel the mysteries of how mindfulness practices affect not only behavior, but the structure and function of the brain itself. This presentation will first touch on psychological mechanisms of how mindfulness decouples craving from behavior, using evidence from clinical trials of smoking. It will then discuss neuroscientific findings from novice and experienced meditators that provide clues to how this decoupling may manifest in the brain. It will finish by showing how realtime fMRI neurofeedback can link subjective experience with brain activity to further our understanding of brain regions implicated in mindful awareness.


The impact of compassion meditation training on altruistic behavior and neural responses to human suffering
Helen Weng, MS

Compassion is a key motivator of altruistic behavior, but little is known about individuals' capacity to cultivate compassion through meditation training. We examined whether compassion may be systematically trained by testing whether (1) short-term online compassion training increases altruistic behavior towards strangers and (2) increases in altruistic behavior are associated with changes in compassionate neural responses towards human suffering. In healthy adults, we found that compassion training increased altruistic economic behavior even when participants were not actively meditating. Furthermore, greater altruistic behavior after compassion training was associated with altered activation in brain regions implicated in social cognition and emotion regulation, including the inferior parietal cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and in DLPFC connectivity with the nucleus accumbens. These results suggest that compassion can be cultivated with training and that greater altruistic behavior may emerge from increased engagement of neural systems implicated in understanding the suffering of other people, executive and emotional control, and reward processing.


Effects of Eight-Week Meditation Training on Brain Structure and Function: A Comparison of Mindful Attention Training and Cognitively-Based Compassion Training
Gaelle Desbordes, PhD

In this presentation we will review recent findings from the Compassion and Attention Longitudinal Meditation (CALM) study, a randomized controlled trial testing the effects of two different types of meditation training. In the CALM study, healthy adults without meditation experience were randomized to three different eight-week programs: Mindful-Attention Training (a.k.a. Shamatha meditation), Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (a secular training in loving-kindness and compassion meditation based on the Tibetan Lojong tradition), or an active control intervention (health education course). Before and after the interventions, a subset of the study participants took part in structural and functional brain imaging and concurrent recordings of cardiac and respiratory activity to assess the autonomic nervous system. We found that the two meditation interventions had a different impact on the brain responses and autonomic responses to emotional challenge, and that meditation training promoted neuroplastic changes in the brain after only eight weeks. The results obtained to date suggest that both types of meditation training may have enduring impact on the central and autonomic nervous systems.


Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, and Self-Transcendence (S-ART): A Systemsbased Integrative Framework by which Mindfulness Functions to Reduce Bias and Sustain a Healthy Mind
David Vago, PhD

Evidence supporting the neurobiological mechanisms by which Buddhist and contemporary mindfulness-based meditation practices function is growing. However, the specific cognitive and psychological processes that support meditative practices across the spectrum of experience by the practitioner need to be clarified. Our research provides an integrative theoretical framework and systems-based neurobiological model that describes mindfulness through specific forms of mental training to develop meta-awareness (self-awareness), an ability to effectively modulate one's behavior (self-regulation), and the development of a positive relationship between self and other that transcends self-focused needs and increases prosocial characteristics (self-transcendence). This framework of selfawareness, regulation, and transcendence (S-ART) proposes

  • cognitive and psychological processes supporting core meditation practices, including focused attention, open monitoring, and loving kindness,
  • the underlying neural networks of self processing that operate mechanistically to support such processes, and
  • how these mechanisms function to reduce perceptual and cognitive biases, and create a sustainable healthy mind.