Neuroscientist Richard Davidson to speak at UNCA Feb. 13-14

Press release from UNC Asheville:

Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., world-renowned neuroscientist and co-author of Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, will give a free public lecture at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, at UNC Asheville’s Lipinsky Auditorium, and a free public master class at 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 14, in the Highsmith Student Union Blue Ridge Room. And to set the stage for Davidson’s campus visit, UNC Asheville Associate Professor of Psychology Patrick Foo will give a free talk, The Neuroscience of Meditative Practices, at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 4, also in the Blue Ridge Room.

Davidson’s lecture, Well-Being is a Skill, will consider scientific evidence that we can change our brains by cultivating habits of mind that will improve well-being. His analysis stems from his decades of research focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style, and methods to promote human flourishing including meditation and related contemplative practices.

Davidson’s research has encompassed people young and old in varying states of mental health, and most famously, involved measuring the brain emissions of Buddhist monks as they meditated. He has gained worldwide recognition in and beyond the scientific community.

Among Davidson’s many awards was the year 2000 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award – the most distinguished award for science given by the American Psychological Association. In 2003, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2006, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine and was awarded the first Mani Bhaumik Award by UCLA for advancing the understanding of the brain and conscious mind in healing.

In 2008, Davidson founded the Center for Healthy Minds, a research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a mission “to cultivate well-being and relieve suffering through a scientific understanding of the mind.” Davidson continues to direct the center, and holds the faculty title of William James Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to his many books and hundreds of published articles, Davidson’s achievements now include election to the National Academy of Medicine and membership on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Mental Health. More information is available at Davidson’s website,

Davidson’s work is of particular interest on the UNC Asheville campus, where a certificate program in Contemplative Inquiry – a program that includes the course, The Art and Science of Meditation, developed and taught by a cross-disciplinary group of faculty members – is now offered to students. “We see a connection between mindfulness skills and the public liberal arts,” said Keya Maitra, UNC Asheville’s Thomas Howerton Distinguished Professor of Humanities, a philosophy scholar whose personal invitation led to Davidson’s visit. “I think that it’s a no-brainer that the contemplative skills and experience are part of the complete skill-set we are aiming to inculcate in our students.”

No tickets are needed for these free events; seating is general admission, first-come, first-served. Doors will open at 6 p.m. at Lipinsky Auditorium on Feb. 13. In the event that all seats become filled, the lecture will be livestreamed at the Highsmith Student Union.

Davidson’s visit to UNC Asheville is supported by the NEH Distinguished Professorship and the Howerton Distinguished Professorship, and is part of UNC Asheville’s Cultural Events Series, which receives support from Biltmore Farms Hotels, Blue Ridge Public Radio, and Our State magazine.

For more information about these events, please contact Cori Anderson, UNC Asheville associate director of cultural events and engaged citizenship, or 828.258.7727.

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