Osher Center Researcher Receives Award from Mind and Life Institute

The Osher Center is proud to announce that postdoctoral scholar Helen Y. Weng, PhD is the recipient of a 2015 Francisco J. Varela Award from the Mind and Life Institute for her research proposal, “A community-engaged approach to contemplative neuroscience in a diverse contemplative community.” This grant aims to increase the diversity of participants within neuroscientific studies of meditation, including racial and ethnic minorities,  the LGBTQI population, the fat community, and persons with disabilities.

Dr. Weng is partnering with the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) in Oakland, one of the most diverse meditation sanghas in the United States, whose mission is to “foster liberation, personal and interpersonal healing, social action, and inclusive community building.” Through community-engaged dialogue with EBMC, Dr. Weng will adapt and validate a novel brain imaging study of mindful breath awareness to be culturally-sensitive to key communities within EBMC.

This collaboration with EBMC will be part of a larger project called the EMBODY study, which is developing a novel brain-based measure of mindful breath awareness using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in meditation novices and long-term meditators. The EMBODY study is a collaboration with Dr. Adam Gazzaley’s lab at the UCSF Neuroscience Imaging Center and is funded by a UCSF Resource Allocation Program Pilot in Integrative Medicine grant and by philanthropic support from the Rajen C. Jaswa Fund for Meditation Research.

Dr. Weng hopes this grant will set the groundwork for increasing diversity within studies of contemplative neuroscience, which may increase our understanding of how meditation impacts neural functioning associated with breath awareness in more diverse populations.

If you would like to help support this work, please contact the Osher Center Development Director, Evan Kavanagh, at Evan.Kavanagh@ucsf.edu or 415-353-7223.

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