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.
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
New York University
Thursday, May 21, 7pm
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 www.yi-yuan.net
Does One Size Fit All in Mindfulness Interventions?
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
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