We are very pleased to announce that cul­tural neu­ro­sci­en­tist Liz Losin, a for­mer grad­u­ate stu­dent in the FPR-UCLA Cul­ture, Brain, and Devel­op­ment pro­gram and now a post­doc in Tor Wager’s neu­roimag­ing  lab at the Uni­ver­sity of Col­orado, has joined PLOS Neu­roan­thro­pol­ogy as a blog­ger! Liz will be writ­ing about recent advances in the field. You can read her first post here.

The neu­roan­thro­pol­ogy blog is co-authored by anthro­pol­o­gists Greg Downey (Mac­quarie Uni­ver­sity; @GregDowney1) and Daniel Lende (Uni­ver­sity of South Florida; @daniel_lende), who are also co-editors of a foun­da­tional work in neu­roan­thro­pol­ogy, The Encul­tured Brain (MIT, Decem­ber 2012).

Liz, Greg, and Daniel helped us orga­nize the FPR-UCLA Cul­ture, Mind, and Brain Con­fer­ence last Octo­ber. Greg chaired the first ses­sion (“Why Cul­ture, Mind, and Brain””), Daniel chaired a ses­sion on stress and resilience, and Liz was a pan­elist on “Mul­ti­ple Path­ways to Interdisciplinarity”).

Be sure to check out the blog at PLOS Neu­roan­thro­pol­ogy and the neu­roanth Face­book page.


We’re look­ing for­ward to the first meet­ing of ICNC (May 10–12, 2013) at North­west­ern. Speak­ers include Xavier Cagi­gas and Mary-Helen Immordino-Yang of the FPR-UCLA Cul­ture, Brain, Devel­op­ment, and Men­tal Health pro­gram (CBDMH) in Cul­ture, Neu­ro­science and Psy­chosis). For more infor­ma­tion about the con­fer­ence visit culturalneuroscience.org

Ten­ta­tive Program

May 10–12, 2013

Day 1 – May 10, 2013

Pop­u­la­tion health dis­par­i­ties and global men­tal health

    • Dr. Pamela Collins, NIMH Office on Research on Dis­par­i­ties and Global Men­tal Health
    • Prof. Joanna Asia Maselko, Duke University
    • Prof. Lawrence Yang, Colum­bia University
    • Prof. Kevin Wu, National Tai­wan University

Wel­come Recep­tion and Poster Session

Day 2 – May 11, 2013

Method­olog­i­cal issues in cul­tural neuroscience

    • Prof. Mal­colm Dow, North­west­ern University
    • Prof. Todd Par­rish, North­west­ern University
    • Prof. Xavier Cagi­gas, UCLA
    • Prof. George Northoff, Uni­ver­sity of Ottowa
    • Prof. Jack van Honk and Dan Stein, Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town

Cof­fee Break

Cul­tural neu­ro­science of emotion

    • Prof. Shi­nobu Kitayama, Uni­ver­sity of Michigan
    • Prof. Mary-Helen Immordino-Yang, Uni­ver­sity of South­ern California
    • Prof. Michio Nomura, Kyoto University
    • Prof. Tet­suya Iidaka, Nagoya University


Cul­tural neu­ro­science of cognition

    • Prof. Chuan­sheng Chen, Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine
    • Prof. Angela Gutchess, Bran­deis University
    • Prof. Steven Demor­est, Uni­ver­sity of Washington
    • Prof. Judy Illes, Uni­ver­sity of British Columbia

Cof­fee Break

Cul­tural neu­ro­science of social cognition

    • Prof. Shi­hui Han, Peking University
    • Prof. Ying-yi Hong, Nanyang Tech­no­log­i­cal University
    • Prof. Eva Telzer, Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois, Urbana-Champaign
    • Prof. Beat­rice de Gelder, Tilburg University



Day 3 – May 12, 2013

Cul­tural neu­ro­science of inter­group processes

    • Prof. Lasana Har­ris, Duke University
    • Dr. Bobby Cheon, Nanyang Tech­no­log­i­cal University
    • Dr. Eliz­a­beth Losin, Uni­ver­sity of Col­orado Boulder
    • Prof. George Christopou­los, Nanyang Tech­no­log­i­cal University

Cof­fee Break

Cul­ture and genetics

    • Prof. Hee­jung Kim, Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Santa Barbara
    • Prof. Joni Sasaki, York University
    • Prof. Jamie Mor­ris, Uni­ver­sity of Virginia
    • Prof. Turhan Canli, SUNY Stony Brook


NIH Fund­ing Oppor­tu­ni­ties in Cul­ture and Health

    • Dr. Bill Elwood (NIH Opp­net) and Dr. Pamela Collins (NIH Office of Dis­par­i­ties and Global Men­tal Health)

Cof­fee Break

Work­shop Groups and Clos­ing Remarks

Bio­log­i­cal Freudi­an­ism: Long-lasting Effects on Envi­ron­men­tal Fac­tors Through Influ­ences on the Epigenome – Frances Cham­pagne, C from Kavli Fron­tiers of Sci­ence on Vimeo.

Epi­ge­net­ics and the Trans­gen­er­a­tional Impact of the Social Envi­ron­ment
Frances Cham­pagne, Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity, New York, USA

Devel­op­ment occurs within a social con­text. The crit­i­cal role of the social envi­ron­ment in shap­ing our brain and behav­ior has long been inferred from the asso­ci­a­tion between early social depri­va­tion (in the form of infant neglect or abuse) and adverse neu­rode­vel­op­men­tal out­comes asso­ci­ated with increased risk of psy­chi­atric ill­ness. A crit­i­cal ques­tion raised by these find­ings is regard­ing the bio­log­i­cal path­ways through which envi­ron­men­tal effects are achieved: What are the mech­a­nisms through which social expe­ri­ences lead to long-term indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences in phys­i­ol­ogy, neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy, and behav­ior? Recent evi­dence from stud­ies in rodents has impli­cated mol­e­c­u­lar path­ways involved in the reg­u­la­tion of gene expres­sion as one pos­si­ble route through which these long-term out­comes are achieved. Fac­tors that influ­ence gene activ­ity with­out mod­i­fy­ing DNA sequence is a fea­ture of the emerg­ing field of epi­ge­net­ics (mean­ing “over” or “above” genet­ics) and may pro­vide insight into the dynamic inter­play between genomes and the envi­ron­ment. Epi­ge­netic effects, though not exclu­sive to social expe­ri­ences, may be a mech­a­nism through which the qual­ity of the social envi­ron­ment becomes embed­ded at a bio­log­i­cal level. Thus, there is evi­dence from a vari­ety of exper­i­men­tal mod­els sug­gest­ing that mother-infant inter­ac­tions, social con­tact with peers, and adult social stress may lead to long-term epi­ge­netic changes in the brain with con­se­quences for stress respon­siv­ity, cog­ni­tion, and social/reproductive behav­ior. Inter­est­ingly, epi­ge­netic vari­a­tion, much like genetic vari­a­tion, can be her­i­ta­ble. There is increas­ing evi­dence for the trans­gen­er­a­tional impact of early expe­ri­ences medi­ated either through changes in social and repro­duc­tive behav­ior exhib­ited in adult­hood or through germline epi­ge­netic vari­a­tion. The role of epi­ge­net­ics in medi­at­ing devel­op­men­tal plas­tic­ity both within and across gen­er­a­tions pro­vides a novel frame­work for under­stand­ing the inher­i­tance of indi­vid­ual vari­a­tions in brain and behav­ior and the role of the envi­ron­ment in induc­ing her­i­ta­ble mod­i­fi­ca­tions. This research has lead to a revival of Lamar­ck­ian con­cepts of the inher­i­tance of acquired traits and high­lights the adap­tive value of environmentally-induced changes in the activ­ity of genes.


Cham­pagne FA & Mas­hoodh R (2009) Genes in con­text: Gene-environment inter­play and the ori­gins of indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences in behav­ior. Cur­rent Direc­tions in Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence 18(3): 127–131.
Cur­ley JP, David­son S, Bate­son P & Cham­pagne FA (2009) Social enrich­ment dur­ing post­na­tal devel­op­ment induces trans­gen­er­a­tional effects on emo­tional and repro­duc­tive behav­ior in mice. Fron­tiers in Behav­ioral Neu­ro­science 3:25
Cham­pagne FA (2008) Epi­ge­netic mech­a­nisms and the trans­gen­er­a­tional effects of mater­nal care. Fron­tiers in Neu­roen­docrinol­ogy, 29(3): 386–397.

Stephen Suomi gave a ter­rific talk at our con­fer­ence. We may have video avail­able shortly, but in the mean­time I’m post­ing a talk he gave in 2010 at the Cen­ter for Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies Sym­po­sium hosted by the Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame:

Stephen J. Suomi – Human Nature and Early Expe­ri­ence from ACEatND on Vimeo.


This is a repost/update from a Sum­mer post on the fpr blog:


On the vari­eties of empathic expe­ri­ence: Tac­til­ity, men­tal opac­ity, and pain in Yap by Jason Throop (2012)

Via Eugene Raikhel (Neu­roan­thro­pol­ogy Inter­est Group): See the just-published spe­cial issue of “Sci­ence in Con­text” on “The Vari­eties of Empa­thy in Sci­ence, Art, and History.” It includes an arti­cle by Shaun Gal­lagher (“Empa­thy, Sim­u­la­tion, and Nar­ra­tive“), one by Allan Young (“The Social Brain and the Myth of Empa­thy“) and a num­ber of others.

Roundup on “Anthro­pol­ogy, Teach­ing, and Empa­thy” in early 2012 by Jason Antro­sio of Anthro­pol­ogy Report and a related post by Rex on Sav­age Minds, “Empa­thy, or, see­ing from within.”

Hol­lan, D. C., & Throop, C. J. (2011). The anthro­pol­ogy of empa­thy: Expe­ri­enc­ing the lives of oth­ers in Pacific soci­eties. New York: Berghahn.

Blog post by Emily Will­ing­ham (Dec 2011): “Autis­tic peo­ple: Insen­si­tive to social rep­u­ta­tion, sure, but what about empa­thy?” on the web­site Autism and Empathy.


Bern­hardt, B. C., & Singer, T. (2012). The neural basis of empa­thyAnnual Review of Neu­ro­science, 35, 1–23.

Decety, J. Nor­man, G. J., Berntson, G. G., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2012). A neu­robe­hav­ioral evo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive on the mech­a­nisms under­ly­ing empa­thy. Progress in Neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy, 98(1), 38–48. See also, Decety, J. (2011b). The neu­roevo­lu­tion of empa­thyAnnals of the New York Acad­emy of Sci­ences, 1231, 35–45.

Zaki, J., & Ochsner, K. N. (2012). The neu­ro­science of empa­thy: Progress, pit­falls and promiseNature Neu­ro­science: Focus on Social Neu­ro­science [Per­spec­tive], 15(5), 675–680.

Decety, J. (2011a). Dis­sect­ing the neural mech­a­nisms medi­at­ing empa­thy. Emo­tion Review, 3,92–108. See also, Decety, J. (2010). To what extent is the expe­ri­ence of empa­thy medi­ated by shared neural cir­cuits? Emo­tion Review, 2(3), 204–207.

Empa­thy and pro-social behav­ior in rats” Inbal Ben-Ami Bar­tal, Jean Decety, and Peggy Mason. See also 2011 Sci­ence paper by same group.

Empa­thy as cul­tural process: Insights from the cul­tural neu­ro­science of empa­thy“ by Bobby Cheon, Vani Mathur, and Joan Chiao (WCPRR, 2010).


Cheng, Y., Hung, A., & Decety, J. (2012). Dis­so­ci­a­tion between affec­tive shar­ing and emo­tion under­stand­ing in juve­nile psy­chopathsDevel­op­ment and Psychopathology, 24, 623–636.

[From Abstract]… youth with HCU [high callous-unemotional traits] exhibit atyp­i­cal neural dynam­ics of pain empa­thy pro­cess­ing in the early stage of affec­tive arousal, which is cou­pled with their rel­a­tive insen­si­tiv­ity to actual pain. Their capac­ity to under­stand inten­tion­al­ity, how­ever, was not affected. Such uncou­pling between affec­tive arousal and emo­tion under­stand­ing may con­tribute to insti­gat­ing aggres­sive behav­iors in juve­nile psychopaths.

[From the paper] It is  impor­tant that the affec­tive arousal deficit … can­not be explained by a lack of sen­so­ri­mo­tor res­o­nance [i.e., mir­ror neu­rons], as mea­sured by mu wave sup­pres­sion [this was an ERP study], which was present in a ll par­tic­i­pants. This find­ing indi­cates that affec­tive arousal is not medi­ated by the mir­ror neu­ron system.

Empa­thy and alter­ity in cul­tural psy­chi­a­try” by Lau­rence Kir­mayer (Ethos, 2008).

Empa­thy and oth­er­ness: Human­is­tic and phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal approaches to psy­chother­apy of severe men­tal ill­ness” by Eliz­a­beth Pienkos and Louis Sass (Prag­matic Case Stud­ies in Psy­chother­apy, 2012).

Empa­thy in men­tal ill­ness edited by Tom Far­row and Peter Woodruff (CUP, 2007).

Zero degrees of empa­thy” by Simon Baron-Cohen, cov­er­ing dis­or­ders of empa­thy (bor­der­line per­son­al­ity dis­or­der, psy­chopa­thy, nar­cis­sism) and genetic, endocrine, and social influences.

Recent research sug­gests that a psy­cho­log­i­cal inter­ven­tion, mind­ful med­i­ta­tion, may decrease lone­li­ness and related inflam­ma­tory dis­ease risk by mod­u­lat­ing immune cell gene expres­sion pro­files (Creswell et al., 2012; writ­ten up in Sci­ence Daily).  

This crossed my mind (I’m a sub­scriber to UCLA’s Mind­ful Aware­ness free med­i­ta­tion pod­casts) when I read that reg­is­tra­tion is now open for McGill’s 19th Annual Sum­mer Pro­gram in Social and Cul­tural Psy­chi­a­try (May 3 – June 28, 2013), hosted by the Divi­sion of Social & Tran­scul­tural Psy­chi­a­try – down­load pro­gram and appli­ca­tion form here – because the Advanced Study Insti­tute is offer­ing the fol­low­ing ter­rific workshop/conference, which will include an explo­ration of “the uses of mind­ful­ness as a ther­a­peu­tic intervention.”

Photo by L. J. Kirmayer

June 3–5, 2013
Mind­ful­ness in Cul­tural Context


Recent years have seen the enthu­si­as­tic embrace of mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion and other tech­niques drawn from Bud­dhism as ther­a­peu­tic inter­ven­tions in psy­chi­a­try. Bud­dhism is por­trayed as a psy­chol­ogy closely akin to cog­ni­tive psy­chol­ogy. How­ever, in the soci­eties where it originated, Buddhism is a sys­tem of prac­tice that has strong eth­i­cal and moral dimen­sions. How does extract­ing tech­niques like med­i­ta­tion from the tra­di­tion and social con­text in which they orig­i­nate change the nature and effects of the prac­tice? What is the rela­tion­ship of these prac­tices to every­day Bud­dhism as lived in Asian coun­tries or by migrants to the West? How has the West­ern­iza­tion and psy­chol­o­giza­tion of Bud­dhism and other con­tem­pla­tive tra­di­tions altered their mean­ing? What does con­tem­po­rary cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science tell us about the nature of med­i­ta­tion and allied tech­niques? What are the impli­ca­tions of a cultural/contextual view for the con­tin­ued dia­logue between Bud­dhist thought and psy­chi­a­try? This work­shop and con­fer­ence will explore the nature of mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion in cul­tural con­text. Ses­sions will address: (1) the vari­eties of mind­ful­ness and its loca­tion in reli­gious, spir­i­tual and moral tra­di­tions includ­ing Bud­dhist phi­los­o­phy and psy­chol­ogy; (2) cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tific research on med­i­ta­tion and mindfulness; (3) the mean­ings of mind­ful­ness, med­i­ta­tion and related prac­tices in cul­tural con­texts both glob­ally and in migrant pop­u­la­tions; and (4) the uses of mind­ful­ness as a ther­a­peu­tic inter­ven­tion in con­tem­po­rary psy­chi­a­try and psychology.

The for­mat will be a one-day con­fer­ence (June 3) ori­ented toward men­tal health prac­ti­tion­ers fol­lowed by a two-day work­shop (June 4–5) for researchers in cul­ture and mindfulness.

Guest Fac­ulty
Sushrut Jad­hav, Bren­dan Ozawa-De Silva, Chikako Ozawa-De Silva, Geof­frey Samuel,
Evan Thompson

McGill Fac­ulty
Suparna Choud­hury, Ian Gold, Thubten Jinpa, Lau­rence J. Kir­mayer, Amir Raz, Allan Young

There will be a poster ses­sion on June 3, 2013. To sub­mit a poster, please down­load the appli­ca­tion here.

Fol­low this link to Greg Downey’s thought­ful post (dd. 10/27/120 on PLoS Neu­roan­thro­pol­ogy, “Tanya Luhrmann, hear­ing voices in Accra and Chenai.”

Greg Downey and Daniel Lende, both of whom chaired ses­sions at our con­fer­ence, our host­ing a ses­sion (“Brains in the Wild: The Chal­lenges of Neu­roan­thro­pol­ogy”) on Sat­ur­day, Novem­ber 17, 2012, dur­ing the 111th Meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Anthro­po­log­i­cal Asso­ca­tion, which takes place in San Fran­cisco at the Hilton and the Hotel Nikko on 14–18 November.

Online Reg­is­tra­tion has closed, but onsite reg­is­tra­tion opens Novem­ber 14th.





 Spe­cial Guest Lec­ture Hosted by FPR-CBDMH

R. Nathan Spreng, PhD.
Wednes­day, Novem­ber 14, 2012  ·  4:30-7pm
Franz Hall Room 3534  ·  3rd Floor Tower Building

When remem­ber­ing or imag­ing a pos­si­ble event, the thoughts and actions of other peo­ple are often cen­tral. The abil­ity to accu­rately pre­dict other people’s behav­ior is essen­tial for suc­cess­ful social nav­i­ga­tion, with far-reaching and long-lasting impact. A con­ver­gence between mem­ory and social cog­ni­tion has been hypoth­e­sized to facil­i­tate the inte­gra­tion of per­sonal and inter­per­sonal infor­ma­tion to pro­vide a means for per­sonal expe­ri­ences to become social con­cep­tual knowl­edge. This knowl­edge, in turn, may inform strate­gic social behav­ior in sup­port of per­sonal goals. In this talk, I will present evi­dence for a shared neural sub­strate for remem­ber­ing events from the per­sonal past (auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal mem­ory) and infer­ring the thoughts and feel­ings of other peo­ple (men­tal­iz­ing). I will demon­strate this shared func­tional neu­roanatomy in, (1) a meta-analysis of inde­pen­dent task domains, (2) an empir­i­cal study of sub­jects per­form­ing both tasks, and, (3) exam­in­ing the intrin­sic orga­ni­za­tion of the brain using resting-state func­tional con­nec­tiv­ity. In a fourth study, the unique role of inter­per­sonal infor­ma­tion was exam­ined in a social imag­i­na­tion task. I pro­vide evi­dence that brain activ­ity alone can reveal who some­one is think­ing about. Fur­ther, spe­cific brain regions code per­son­al­ity traits and the brain com­bines these per­son­al­ity traits to rep­re­sent a unique indi­vid­ual. The brain then uses this “per­son­al­ity model” to pre­dict their thoughts and actions in a novel sce­nario. Over­all, the stud­ies demon­strate impor­tant insight into the func­tional role of the default net­work in cog­ni­tion and argue for a new per­spec­tive within social cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of mem­ory to social cognition.