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Spring 2018: Meditation, Brain and Body - PSYC 3559- 004

Title

Spring 2018: Meditation, Brain and Body - PSYC 3559- 004

When

Wed. Jan 17, 2018 - Tue. May 1, 2018 (15 weeks)
Every Tuesday, Thursday from 3:30 PM to 4:45 PM

Where

Gilmer Hall B001

What good can come from sitting quietly and investigating your mind? Does how you think change your brain? Is it possible to train yourself to be calmer, more focused, more compassionate? We often hear media reports that science has proven a wide range of benefits of meditation, but what does it mean to say that “meditation works?”
 
In this course, you will think critically about how we gain knowledge about ourselves and our minds—both through scientific means and through personal investigation. Specifically, you’ll be considering how we can study practices like meditation using both of these modes of inquiry. In this course, you’ll dive into the emerging discipline of contemplative science, which seeks to understand meditation by integrating fields like neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, physiology, and social science.
 
Throughout, you’ll be surveying current scientific research on how meditation can change our brains and bodies, and how it can be applied for personal and interpersonal well-being. You’ll also learn some basic forms of meditation and reflect on how an individual’s experience of meditation is important for research. By integrating reading, lectures, group work, activities, discussion, and your own meditation practice, you’ll develop skills to think like a contemplative scientist and approach scientific material with confidence. This means we’ll emphasize critical evaluation of research findings and related media reports, helping you develop informed opinions in the face of “mindfulness hype.”
 
This course fosters an inclusive and active learning atmosphere—students without a formal science background are welcome and encouraged! A mix of perspectives creates a richer dialogue for learning. Together, we’ll explore how what you think can change your brain and body, and what this could mean for humanity.
 
*3 credits
 
Instructor: Wendy Hasenkamp (wmh6f@virginia.edu)