Interest in contemplative practice has burgeoned in recent years as scientists in diverse fields point out the significant role that other-centered behaviors appear to play in health and wellbeing. Primatologist Frans de Waal, for example, posits that the common perception of human nature as a self-centered drive for individual survival is largely distorted, if not altogether wrong. Rather, he suggests, the roots of empathy, compassion, and morality run deep in human evolutionary history.
The Scientific Basis of Compassion
When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection - or compassionate action.
- Dr. Daniel Goleman
Further, work in social neuroscience has shown that the perception of social isolation is a risk factor for poor cognitive performance and can lead to an increase in depressive thoughts. Taken together, this research suggests that practices that enhance our sense of connectivity with others—such as CBCT®—may have a positive impact on our physical and mental health. Emerging data from a variety of on-going studies is supporting this supposition.
- Sheethal D. Reddy, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, Brendan Ozawa-de Silva, Thaddeus W. W. Pace, Steve P. Cole, Charles L. Raison, Linda W. Craighead, (2013). Cognitive-Based Compassion Training: A Promising Prevention Strategy for At-Risk Adolescents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22: 219–230
- Thaddeus W.W. Pace, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Daniel D. Adame, Steven P. Cole, Teresa I. Sivilli, Timothy D. Brown, Michael J. Issa, Charles L. Raison, (2009). Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology 34: 87—98
- Thaddeus W.W. Pace, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, Brendan Ozawa-de Silva, Sheethal D. Reddy, Steven P. Cole, Andrea Danese, Linda W. Craighead, Charles L. Raison (2013) Engagement with Cognitively-Based Compassion Training is associated with reduced salivary C-reactive protein from before to after training in foster care program adolescents, Psychoneuroendocrinology 38: 294—299
- Gaëlle Desbordes, Lobsang T. Negi, Thaddeus W. W. Pace, B. Alan Wallace, Charles L. Raison, Eric L. Schwartz (2012) Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Front. Hum. Neurosci, v6
- Jennifer S. Mascaro, James K. Rilling, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, and Charles L. Raison (2012) Compassion meditation enhances empathic accuracy and related neural activity. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, v8: 48-55
- Brendan R. Ozawa-de Silva, DPhil, MPhil, MTS, Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, MA, Charles L. Raison, MD, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD (2012) Scientific and Practical Approaches to the Cultivation of Compassion as a Foundation for Ethical Subjectivity and Well-BeingJournal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities v2: 145-161
- T Pace, L Negi, B Donaldson-Lavelle, B Ozawa-de Silva, S Reddy, S Cole, L Craighead, C Raison (2012) Cognitively-Based Compassion Training reduces peripheral inflammation in adolescents in foster care with high rates of early life adversityBMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12(Suppl 1): 175
- Thaddeus W.W. Pace, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Teresa I. Sivilli, Michael J. Issa, Steven P. Cole, Daniel D. Adame, Charles L. Raison (2010) Innate immune, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress do not predict subsequent compassion meditation practice time. Psychoneuroendocrinology 35: 310—315
- Sally E. Dodds,Thaddeus W.W. Pace, Melanie L. Bell, Mallorie Fiero,Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Charles L. Raison, Karen L. Weihs. Feasibility of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) for breast cancer survivors: a randomized, wait list controlled pilot study Support Care Cancer, 2015 Dec;23(12):3599-608. doi: 10.1007/s00520-015-2888-1.
- Jennifer S. Mascaro, Sean Kelley, Alana Darcher, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Carol Worthman, Andrew Miller & Charles Raison (2016): Meditation buffers medical student compassion from the deleterious effects of depression, The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1233348
For more on the need for cultivating compassion, watch this video by one of our CBCT® researchers, Dr. Charles Raison.