Groundbreaking neuroscientist Richard Davidson to explore emotion and the brain for Assembly Series


Richard J. Davidson, PhD, is a renowned neuroscientist and one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of contemplative practices such as meditation on the brain. He will give this year’s Witherspoon Memorial Lecture on Religion and Science, titled “Change Your Brain by Transforming Your Mind.”

The Assembly Series event will be at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, in Graham Chapel on Washington University in St. Louis’ Danforth Campus. The program is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow in the Danforth University Center’s Goldberg Formal Lounge.

Beata Grant, PhD, professor of Chinese language and literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, and director of the Religious Studies program, both in Arts & Sciences, explained why Davidson is an appropriate choice for this lecture:

“Davidson is an exceptionally strong choice for the annual Witherspoon lecture, which is sponsored by Religious Studies, because his work and that of his colleagues offers an exciting example of a demonstrably beneficial synergetic convergence of modern cutting-edge science and ancient meditative techniques and contemplative practices, many of which are associated with religious traditions such as Buddhism.”

Davidson, a graduate of Harvard University, is the Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and director of both the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior and the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, all at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has been a faculty member since 1984.

With the encouragement of the Dalai Lama, Davidson in 2008 founded, and serves as chair of, the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds in Madison. The center conducts rigorous scientific research on healthy qualities of mind such as kindness, compassion, altruism, forgiveness, mindfulness and well-being. Its work is rooted in the insights of neuroplasticity — the discovery that our brains change throughout our lives in response to experience —suggesting that positive changes can be nurtured through mental training.

A distinguished scholar with more than 275 scientific articles to his credit, Davidson also is a best-selling author of books geared to a general audience. Two of his most recent are “The Mind’s Own Physician” and “The Emotional Life of Your Brain,” written with Sharon Begley.

For information on this and other Assembly Series programs, visit or call 314-935-4620.

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