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Mindful : April 2014
Illustration by Gavin Potenza Last year, President Obama commit- ted $100 million to understanding our gray matter better. Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnolo- gies, or BRAIN, funds research into brain function and behavior. The immediate goal is more effective treatment of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. But has any of that money funded research in contemplative neuroscience? Not yet, says David Vago, but it could. He points to the term “neurotechnologies” in the program’s title. “The BRAIN investment is technology driven, and a basic question in contempla- tive neuroscience is how best to use neuro- imaging [MRI and other brain-scanning technology] to understand the benefits of the resting mind,” says Vago, who maps meditators’ brains at the Functional Neuroimaging Laborator y at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, one of Har vard Medical School’s major teaching hospitals. “So if contemplative neuroscientists are creative enough to advance the technol- ogy of neuroimaging, those funds could be available to those of us working in this field.” He points to the work of neuroscien- tist Judson Brewer, who has been explor- ing real-time analysis of brain scans, as the kind of project that could garner funding from the program. (See adjacent stor y.) In Vago’s view, “Contemplative neu- roscience still sits at a high point in the field of neuroscience because not only is it trendy, but it is also revealing things that would other wise be unknown without a rigorous interest in the mind.” ● CFM Gets Research Director The Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has appointed one of America’s lead- ing contemplative neuroscientists as its first director of research. Judson Brewer, MD, Ph.D. , was previously the medical director at Yale’s Therapeu- tic Neuroscience Clinic. He’s also founder and chair- man of goBlue Labs, a neuroim- aging techology start-up. “I’m looking forward to complement- ing the center’s programs with more research,” he says, includ- ing exploring how brain scanners can augment mindful- ness practice. ● A Boost for Brain Research now 18 mindful April 2014