Neuroscience Seminar Series: Tania Singer (Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig): Plasticity of the Social Brain: Effects of a One-Year Mental Training Study on Brain Plasticity, Social Cognition and Attention, Stress and Social Behavior
Friday, 12 June 2015, 1pm to 2pm
In the last decades, plasticity research has suggested that training of mental capacities such as attention, mindfulness and compassion is effective and leads to changes in brain functions associated with increases in positive affect, pro-social behavior, and better health. I will introduce the ReSource Project, a large-scale multi-methodological one-year secular mental training program. Participants were trained in three separate modules allowing us to distinguish effects based on a) attention and interoceptive body awareness training (Presence), b) care, compassion and emotion-regulation training (Affect), and c) Theory of Mind and meta-cognitive awareness training (Perspective). We assessed data from more than 300 training and control subjects, with over 90 measures including subjective measures, questionnaires, event-sampling data, a variety of behavioral, brain, physiological and biological data. I will present first evidence suggesting training-module specific changes in functional and structural brain plasticity, stress reduction, subjective well-being, mind-wandering, and different psychological as well as economic measures assessing changes in attention, Theory of Mind and compassion as well as prosocial behavior during monetary social exchange. These findings will be discussed in relation to their meaning for models of social cognition, plasticity research in general, and their importance to initiate societal change.