The Metro-Area Research Group on Awareness & Meditation (MARGAM) at New York University has presented researchers and scholars discussing their current and emerging studies on contemplative practice and consciousness since 2010. MARGAM aims to facilitate dialogue and collaboration between scientists, psychologists, philosophers, and scholars engaged in research on consciousness, contemplative practice, and related topics.

Check our ARCHIVES page for MARGAM’s previous talks.


FALL 2015



Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, NYC (Please see flyer below for details)




Wednesday, November 18 at 7pm

44 West 4th Street, KMC 4-110


Emotion Regulation Therapy for Chronic Anxiety and Recurring Depression

Despite the success of cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) for emotional disorders, a sizable subgroup of patients with complex clinical presentations fails to evidence adequate treatment response.  To address these challenges, contemporary CBTs, focusing on metacognition, mindfulness, and acceptance (e.g., MBCT, ACT, DBT, ABBT, MCT, CFT) have been developed and have begun to show efficacy for complex conditions such as chronic generalized anxiety and major depression. Generalized anxiety and major depressive disorders (often termed “distress disorders”; e.g., Watson 2005) are commonly comorbid and appear to be characterized by temperamental features that reflect heightened sensitivity to underlying motivational systems related to threat/safety and reward/loss. Further, individuals with these disorders tend to perseverate (i.e., worry, ruminate) as a way to manage this motivationally relevant distress and often utilize these self-conscious processes to the detriment of engaging new contextual learning. Emotion Regulation Therapy (ERT) is a theoretically-derived, evidence based, treatment that integrates principles from traditional and contemporary cognitive behavioural treatments (e.g., skills training & exposure) with basic and translational findings from affect science to offer a blueprint for improving intervention by focusing on the motivational responses and corresponding regulatory characteristics of individuals with distress disorders. ERT focuses on helping clients to 1) expand their understanding of anxiety and depression using a motivational and emotion regulation perspective; 2) cultivate mindful awareness and acceptance of sensations, bodily, responses, and conflicting emotions; 3) develop emotion regulation skills that promote a distanced and reframed meta-cognitive perspective; 4) apply these skills during emotion-based exposure to meaningful behavioral actions and associated internal conflicts to taking these actions; and 5) build a plan to maintain gains and take bolder action despite the ending of the therapeutic relationship. Open and randomized controlled psychotherapy trials have demonstrated considerable preliminary evidence for the utility of this approach as well as for the underlying proposed mechanisms.

Doug Mennin received his Ph.D. from Temple University in 2001 and, after 9 years on the faculty at Yale University, joined the Department of Psychology at CUNY Hunter College where he has been a Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Health Psychology and Clinical Science Phd training program. Over the past fifteen years, Dr. Douglas Mennin has developed an active program of research in clinical trials and basic research into the nature of mood and anxiety disorders. While on faculty at Yale, he was also Director of the Yale and Anxiety Mood Services (YAMS), where he conducted trial research and supervised students in conducting empirically based treatments for refractory cases with mood and anxiety disorders.  Dr. Mennin has conducted a number of studies of the basic physiological mechanisms of generalized anxiety and major depression and has recently been examining the role of worry and rumination in maintaining and exacerbating gastric dysfunction and chronic inflammation. He has also developed and evaluated an emotion regulation-based intervention for generalized anxiety and depression that was funded through an NIMH R34 mechanism. In a series of open trials and RCTs, this approach has yielded very strong effects in treating typically refractory disorders. Further, this work has identified a number of cognitive, physiological, and neural mechanisms that may mediate symptomatic outcome. He has also recently adapted this approach to treat distressed caregivers of patients with cancer. In both applied and basic research, Dr. Mennin has trained numerous graduate students and post- baccalaureate research assistants on diagnostic and physiological assessment and mentored them on the development of independent studies that were routinely presented at national conferences or published.  To date, in addition to over 80 publications on anxiety and depression, this line of work has yielded an authored book with Guilford (Mennin & Fresco, under contract), one of the inaugural “spotlight presentations” at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and numerous invited addresses. He currently serves on the editorial board of six journals and on the executive boards of the APA Division of Clinical Psychology and the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology, and is a member of the Scientific Council of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Douglass Mennin

Department of Psychology

Hunter College, CUNY


February 2016 (Date to be announced soon), 7pm


Consciousness and Metacognition

Conscious mental states are states we are in some way aware of. I compare higher-order theories of consciousness, which explain consciousness by appeal to such higher-order awareness (HOA), and first-order theories, which do not, and I argue that higher-order theories have substantial explanatory advantages. The higher-order nature of our awareness of our conscious states suggests an analogy with the metacognition that figures in the regulation of psychological processes and behavior. I argue that, although both consciousness and metacognition involve higher-order psychological states, they have little more in common. One thing they do share is the possibility of misrepresentation; just as metacognitive processing can misrepresent one’s cognitive states and abilities, so the HOA in virtue of which one’s mental states are conscious can, and sometimes does, misdescribe those states. A striking difference between the two, however, has to do with utility for psychological processing. Metacognition has considerable benefit for psychological processing; in contrast, it is unlikely that there is much, if any, utility to mental states’ being conscious over and above the utility those states have when they are not conscious.

David Rosenthal is Professor of Philosophy and of Linguistics and Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Concentration in Cognitive Science at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is past president of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, and has written and lectured extensively on consciousness, the qualitative character of mental states, intentionality, the self, and related topics.

David Rosenthal

Philosophy and Cognitive Science

Graduate Center, City University of New York



March 2016 (Date to be announced soon), 7pm


“Mindfulness-based interventions: Clinical applications and adaptations for population health”

Amanda J. Shallcross, ND, MPH
Post-Doctoral Fellow

Center for Healthful Behavior Change

Department of Population Health

New York University School of Medicine



July 2, 2015, 7pm

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 11.52.56 AM
Does One Size Fit All in Mindfulness Interventions?


NYU Stern Kauffman Management Center

1st floor, conference room 170

44 West 4th street

NY, NY 10012

Mindfulness-based interventions have grown in popularity as clinical and educational settings due to their standardized training protocols. While such standardization is important for estimating the effects of mindfulness training across a variety of locations, it also masks potential variation in participant learning and experience. When participants benefit from mindfulness interventions, do they all follow the same therapeutic path? Do particular elements of multifaceted mindfulness interventions hold different import for different people? In this discussion, I will describe several potential pathways for the benefits associated with early mindfulness practice, and raise the question of wether we ought to be more finely matching participant needs to particular sets of contemplative practices, or even contraindicating such practices depending upon the individual. To this end, I will discuss emerging neuroimaging evidence that suggests different practices within conventional mindfulness courses appear to have potentially opposing effects on emotion processing, and that truly ‘skillful means’ involves identifying these different dynamics and learning to select among regulatory options rather than dogmatically pursuing one practice or approach.

Dr. Norman Farb, PhD studies the neuroscience of human identity and emotion, with a focus on how cognitive biases shape emotional reactions that determine well-being. For example, some people seem to shrug off stressful encounters, whereas others cannot let them go. What distinguishes these people? Is it something about how they construe themselves and the world? What consequences do habitual patterns of self-reference have for well-being? How can we measure seemingly ephemeral constructs such as self-reference and emotion? To these ends, his work employs multiple levels of analysis, including first and third-person qualitative reports, behavioral task performance, physiological responses, and patterns of neural activity and connectivity derived primarily through functional MRI. Dr. Farb is particularly interested in how cognitive training practices such as mindfulness meditation foster resilience against stress, reducing vulnerability to affective disorders such as depression.

Norman Farb, PhD

Assistant Professor, Psychology
University of Toronto, Mississauga

Thursday, May 21, 7pm

Presidential Endowed Chair in Neuroscience
Professor, Department of Psychological SciencesFounding Director of Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute
Texas Tech University, USA


44 West 4th Street,

Room M3-80

New York, NY 10012

Training attention and self-control effectively: brain mechanism and clinical application

How to train attention and self-control effectively? There are two very different methods: one is network training (e.g., working memory training) and the other is state training (e.g., mindfulness meditation). I will discuss the brain mechanism and clinical application of these training methods as well as the practice with or without effort .

Dr. Yi-Yuan Tang is the Presidential Endowed Chair in Neuroscience and Professor of Psychological Sciences. He is also a Professor of Internal Medicine at Texas Tech Health Science Center. His basic research focuses on how brain processes information, makes decision and drives behavior associated with health and disease. His translational research focuses on inventing, developing and applying new preventive intervention techniques (e.g, mindfulness meditation, brain state training) for behavioral problems and mental disorders associate with deficits in attention, emotion, self-awareness and self-control (e.g. stress, mood disorders, addiction, PTSD and TBI). Dr. Tang is a long-term practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, meditation, Tai Chi, martial arts and I Ching. He developed the Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) in 1990’s and has published over 260 peer-reviewed articles and 6 books. See more on

NEW DATE: Thursday, 23 April, 7pm

The Unified Context of Consciousness

The phenomenal unity of consciousness has been a much-debated topic. Many disparate processes in the brain appear to be unified in moments of conscious experience. But this unity does not seem to be a fixed property. Our conscious experiences can be more or less fragmented, so that on one end of the spectrum we can have dissociative states with a relatively low level of unity, while on the other end we can have states of consciousness such as those experienced through contemplative practices, which appear to have a very high degree of unity. I will present findings that point to the network in the brain that may facilitate these enhanced states of unity, and is, perhaps, involved in all unified conscious experiences.

Zoran Josipovic, PhD is a research scientist at the Cognitive Neurophysiology Lab, NYU School of Medicine, and an adjunct faculty in the Psychology Dept. NYU. He is the founding director of Nonduality Institute, an independent center for the theory and practice of nondual meditation. He co-founded the Margam series of talks at NYU that showcases current research on meditation and consciousness.

Zoran Josipovic, PhD
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Psychology
Research Associate
New York University



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