Helen Y. Weng, PhD

Core Research Faculty, UCSF Osher Center
Affiliate Faculty Member, Neuroscape, UCSF Sandler Neurosciences Center
Assistant Professor, UCSF School of Medicine


Dr. Helen Weng: “This is Your Brain on Meditation:
How Meditation Impacts the Brain and Implications for Health”

Helen Weng, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF and a core faculty member of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. She is also an affiliate faculty member of the Neuroscape Center at the UCSF Sandler Neurosciences Center. She joined the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine in 2014 as a postdoctoral scholar in the Training in Research in Integrative Medicine (TRIM) fellowship.

Dr. Weng is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist, and is interested in the neurobiological mechanisms through which meditation training may improve social behavior and mental health. She is developing new ways to quantify meditation skills using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and machine learning to identify mental states of body awareness during meditation. She is also partnering with the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California using community engagement in order to increase diversity of meditators within neuroscience studies, including racial and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ population, and people with disabilities. This innovative work led to an invitation to present her work to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Buddhism and Science conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (video below). Dr. Weng is a Mind and Life Institute Fellow and currently serves on the Standing Review Committee for the PEACE Awards.

Dr. Weng received a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her research, conducted at the Center for Healthy Minds and Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, demonstrated that compassion meditation increased both altruistic behavior towards others and how the brain responds to human suffering. This work was some of the first to suggest that compassion is a skill that may be enhanced through training, which results in both behavioral and neuroplasticity. Her research has been featured in media outlets such as the New York Times, the BBC, National Public Radio, and Fast Company.

Dr. Weng completed a clinical psychology internship at the UW-Madison Psychiatric Institute and clinics, where she specialized in integrating compassion and mindfulness meditation with psychotherapy to treat mood and anxiety disorders. Her clinical interests include adapting mind-body interventions for the LGBTQ population.  She values integrating multicultural and social justice frameworks to her work and communication.


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