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Plasticity of the social brain: Effects of a one-year mental training study on brain plasticity, social cognition and attention, stress, and prosocial behavior.

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Singer,  Tania
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Singer, T. (2017). Plasticity of the social brain: Effects of a one-year mental training study on brain plasticity, social cognition and attention, stress, and prosocial behavior. Talk presented at 10th Annual Meeting of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society (SANS). Los Angeles, CA, USA. 2017-03-16 - 2017-03-18.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-C705-E
Abstract
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 training of a) attention and interoceptive body awareness (Presence), b) care, compassion, and emotion-regulation (Affect), and c) Theory of Mind and meta-cognitive awareness (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 of training-module specific changes in markers of both, functional and structural brain plasticity, stress reduction, subjective well-being, and different psychological as well as economic measures assessing social cognitive capacities such as empathy, compassion, and Theory of Mind as well as prosocial behavior and cooperation. These findings will be discussed in relation to their meaning for models of social cognition, plasticity research and contemplative studies in general, and their importance to initiate societal change.