Noted social neuropsychologist Tanya Singer visited the University of Virginia the week of November 27 as a guest of the Contemplative Science Center. Professor Singer is the Director of the Department of Social Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. She has done groundbreaking research on the difference between empathy and compassion, and has shown that these capacities are mediated by distinct neural networks in the brain. She is also the principal investigator of the Resource Project, a year-long study evaluating the impacts of three different contemplative practices, including focused attention, compassion, and perspective taking. She presented her results at a talk on November 27 entitled “Training the Heart and Mind: Effects of a One-Year Contemplative Mental Training Study on Brain, Subjectivity, Health, and Prosociality.” This research has shown that each type of practice has distinct effects. For example, compassion, caring about and wanting to help those who are suffering, was cultivated primarily by practicing dedicated compassion meditation. Overall, there were also associations between the amounts of time individuals practiced with many of the outcomes they assessed. In general, those who practiced more had greater benefits.
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