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University of Wisconsin Professor Richard Davidson to Speak on “Happiness is a Skill”

Richard J. Davidson, the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin’s Waisman Center will present the next lecture in Washington and Lee’s yearlong “Questioning the Good Life” interdisciplinary seminar series. His talk will be Tuesday, March 19, at 5:30 p.m. in Stackhouse Theater of Elrod Commons.

The title of Davidson’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is “Happiness is a Skill.”

“This talk will present an overview of recent research in contemplative neuroscience that frames the application of mental training to cultivate positive attributes of mind from the perspective of neuroplasticity,” said Davidson. “In both child and adult samples, recent evidence suggests that such training can impact experience, behavior, brain and body and leads to the suggestion to consider characteristics such as happiness skills that can be enhanced through systematic training.”

Director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior and the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, Davidson is a pioneer in the field of affective neuroscience. Using techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), he has studied neural substrates of depression and anxiety as well as neural plasticity, which is the ability of the brain to reorganize itself on the basis of new experiences.

He has investigated meditation as a potential mechanism for physically changing one’s brain and generating greater health and well-being. Through this work, Davidson has developed a longstanding relationship with the Dalai Lama and helped to launch a new field of contemplative neuroscience.

Davidson received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and has been at the University of Wisconsin since 1984.

Davidson has edited 15 books and published more than 275 articles, many chapters and reviews, including “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” (2012); “The Mind’s Own Physician” (2012); and “Emotions Inside Out: 130 years after Darwin’s ‘The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals’ ” (2003).

Davidson is the recipient of numerous awards for his research, including a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Award and the William James Fellow Award from the American Psychological Society. Davidson was the founding co-editor of the American Psychological Association journal “Emotion” and is past-president of the Society for Research in Psychopathology and of the Society for Psychophysiological Research.

In 2000, Davidson was the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, the most distinguished award for science given by the American Psychological Association.

In 2003, Davidson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2006, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

Davidson founded the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds in 2008, a research center dedicated to the study of positive qualities, such as kindness and compassion. He serves on the Scientific Advisory Board at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and as chair of the psychology section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Julie Cline
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