Researching the effects of compassion

CBCT® Research Projects and Partnerships

CBCT® as a Research Protocol

In 2005-2006, Dr. Lobsang Tenzin Negi began the development of one of the first research protocols used to systematically and rigorously study the effects of compassion on both physiological and behavioral levels. Originally created as a response to increasing mental distress in Emory College students, CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) is based on the Tibetan Buddhist lojong tradition, a set of meditative practices that are designed to bring about `thought transformation.'  CBCT renders this mind training methodology into a contemporary form appropriate for use by individuals of any, or no, faith tradition.

The underlying assumption is that compassion is a capacity that can be developed and expanded, and that self-centered thinking and behavior cause suffering for self and others, while other-centered thoughts, emotions, and behaviors ultimately benefit all. CBCT® works to promote a deep sense of endearment for others through a process that begins with the stabilization of the practitioner's mental activity, and then progresses to the cultivation of a sense of closeness or connectedness to others, while also developing insight into the causes of suffering.

Initial CBCT® Research

An initial study with Emory undergraduates [Pace et al. 2009] indicated that participants experienced a healthier response to stress after taking the CBCT® program. The effect was especially pronounced in those participants who spent the most time doing meditation practice during the program.

A subsequent study with children in the Atlanta foster care system further demonstrated a reduction in inflammatory bio-markers after the practice of CBCT® (Pace et al. 2012). With these promising results, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded a five-year longitudinal study, the data for which is currently being analyzed.

Research is currently being conducted at Emory and other universities to examine the benefits of CBCT for a variety of populations including medical students, nurses, cancer survivors, veterans with PTSD, HIV+ individuals, school children, and parents of autistic children.

CBCT® and Healthcare

In Spring Semester 2014, the Dean of Emory School of Medicine, Dr. Chris Larsen, invited Dr. Negi to offer a CBCT® Foundation course to stakeholders in the medical school including deans, department heads, mentors, and others. The course was well attended and the enthusiastic reception led to the launch of a pilot project with the School of Medicine on September 15, 2014. CBCT is being taught to a cohort of second year medical students with the intent to see if it lowers stress levels, improves resiliency, and helps to create more mindful and compassionate caregivers. The accompanying study involves faculty from the Department of Psychiatry as well as neuroscientists from Biological Anthropology, in addition to Dr. Negi as Principal Contemplative Investigator.

In 2014, ETP participated in a study with nurses working in neonatal intensive care to see if CBCT® improves workplace civility, and in early 2015, a study examining the effect of CBCT on the relationships between urban experts and rural doctors engaged in telemedicine will be implemented at the Brain Institute of the Albert Einstein Research Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil. Other recently completed, on-going, and scheduled studies using the CBCT protocol include the effects of compassion meditation on breast cancer survivors (University of Arizona), veterans suffering from PTSD (University of California San Diego and Emory), HIV+ individuals, attempted suicide patients (both through Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta), and parents of autistic children (Marcus Center for Autism).

In 2016, CBCT® launched a new relationship with the Spiritual Healthcare program at Emory Healthcare.  The entire program staff, responsible for training and mentoring chaplains of diverse faiths working in healthcare environments, will be trained in CBCT. 

Other Applications of CBCT®

Beyond formal research studies, the Emory-Tibet Partnership is pleased to work with numerous organizations including faith-based congregations, community groups, businesses, and social and educational service programs to offer CBCT® to diverse populations.  Many of our teachers donate their time to teach CBCT to vulnerable groups including incarcerated individuals, Native American youth, adolescents in foster care, and women and children in transition from abusive situations.

WE are pleased to be part of a highly competitive, U.S. Department of Education, "Innovation in Education" grant awarded to the Atlanta Neighborhood CharEer School where we will teach CBCT to elementary school teachers over the next three years.

Peer-Reviewed Research

Please click here to learn more about the science of CBCT including peer-reviewed published research.