16501Re: [Meditation Society of America] New Center At Stanford To Study Brain's Role In Compassion, Altruism
- Jan 23, 2009Great article,This is something I would like to know more about. The biology of compassion. As a father I observed that thier is a natural state of compassion that we as a species are born with. baby on solid food will want to share with every one around him family and strangers alike. What changes in the brain occur in life that disconnects us from our Natural State of being? As a soldier, my concern is what changes occur in the brain that causes seemingly normal people to commit savage acts, It seems there is a switch to self destruct mode that happens in the brain on a collective level, that thier are acts that many individuals are capible of commiting in a group setting and not individualy. Again what is the neural root of collective insanity?Good topicSean
--- On Fri, 1/23/09, medit8ionsociety <email@example.com> wrote:
From: medit8ionsociety <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [Meditation Society of America] New Center At Stanford To Study Brain's Role In Compassion, Altruism
Date: Friday, January 23, 2009, 1:59 PMNew Center At Stanford To Study Brain's
Role In Compassion, Altruism
23 Jan 2009
A new Center for Compassion and Altruism
Research and Education has been launched
at the Stanford University School of Medicine,
with the aim of doing scientific research on
the neural underpinnings of these thoughts and feelings.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso,
provided $150,000 in seed money for the center-the
largest sum he has ever given for a scientific
venture-and has agreed to return to Stanford for
a future visit, according to Geshe Thupten Jinpa,
a translator for the Dalai Lama.
The center is the brainchild of Jim Doty, MD,
a clinical professor of neurosurgery who recently
returned to Stanford after a period of
entrepreneurship, and neurologist William Mobley,
MD, PhD, the John E. Cahill Family Professor in
the School of Medicine. Doty is the director of
the center, which is housed within the Stanford
Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences,
The impetus for the center began in November 2005,
when the Dalai Lama visited Stanford for a dialogue
with scientists and Buddhist scholars that was moderated by Mobley
and focused on spiritual and scientific
explorations of human experience in the areas
of craving, suffering and choice.
Following the visit by the Dalai Lama and based
on his own experiences and interest in these
areas, Doty initiated informal meetings with a
number of Stanford scientists including Mobley,
who is co-director of the center; Brian Knutson,
PhD, associate professor of psychology; and Gary
Steinberg, MD, PhD, professor and chair of
neurosurgery, in an effort to spur rigorous
scientific research in mind/brain interactions
focused on compassion and altruism. He also
connected with University of Oregon neuroeconomist
Bill Harbaugh, PhD, who examines altruistic
giving using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
In March 2008, a delegation from Stanford flew
to Seattle, where the Dalai Lama was attending a
conference related to compassion. On hearing from
the Stanford group about the goals of the planned
center and the pilot studies under way, the Dalai
Lama agreed to a return visit to Stanford and s
pontaneously volunteered the $150,000 donation
to spur continuing exploration in this area.
This event marked the transition from what was
initially an informal gathering of like-minded
scientists to the formal creation of the center
by medical school Dean Philip Pizzo.
"As a neurosurgeon, I can only affect a few
patients each day," Doty said. "Through the
activities of the center, we have the potential
to impact thousands to millions of people to
live fuller and more positive lives."
The center has now raised more than $2 million
in donations and has initiated a number of
pilot studies, some involving Buddhist and
Catholic contemplative practitioners. For example,
brain-imaging studies have demonstrated a burst
of activity in an area of the brain known as
the nucleus accumbens when these practitioners
think compassionate thoughts. The center is also
examining individuals' response to the suffering
of others, which can be either disgust or recognition
of another's suffering, followed by empathy and
a desire to take action (this is signaled by
activation of the prefrontal cortex, the seat of
initiation of motor movement).
Questions the center wishes to address, Doty
- Is it possible to create a set of mental
exercises that individuals can be taught to
make them more compassionate without them
having to spend thousands of hours in meditation
(common for Buddhist monks)?
- Is there an explanation for why a child becomes a bully?
- Are there ways in which children or their
parents can be taught to be more compassionate?
- Can we create a set of exercises that will address
the issue of "compassion fatigue" in clergy and
- Would such training benefit prison inmates to
decrease violence and recidivism?
- Is there a place for such training in the corporate
environment to decrease the incidence of depression
and anxiety in workers?
The center is also sponsoring a symposium, slated
for March, that will bring together a multidisciplinary
group of scientists from around the world. Attendees
will include philosophers, contemplative scholars,
psychologists, developmentalists, primatologists,
neuroeconomists and neuroscientists working in the
area of compassion and altruism research.
Doty brings a unique perspective on altruism to
the center. At one point, he accumulated a $75
million fortune, part of which he committed as a
multimillion- dollar pledge to Stanford University.
But following the dot-com meltdown, Doty was $3
million in debt even after liquidating essentially
all of his assets.
To honor his charitable commitments, he sold his
only remaining asset: stock in Accuray Inc., a
publicly traded company he had previously headed
as CEO. This allowed Doty to fulfill pledges of
$5.4 million to the university and another $20
million to other charities. Part of his Stanford
donation is being used to fund the center.
The center is located at 1215 Welch Road (Module B/room 55). More
information is available at the center's Web site at
http://compassion. stanford. edu.
Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical
education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford
University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile
Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please
visit the Web site of the medical center's Office of Communication &
Public Affairs at http://mednews. stanford. edu.
Stanford University Medical Center
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Article URL: http://www.medicaln ewstoday. com/articles/ 136540.php
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