Key Scientific Papers

These are fundamental scientific papers – all in the public domain – related to brain science, relationships, well-being, contemplative practice, and related topics. (And I welcome your own suggestions.) So many breakthroughs are happening these days that it is very exciting. Certainly we need to take it all with a healthy dose of salt, but as  John Maynard Keynes once said: When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?



Changes in Cortical Dopamine D1 Receptor Binding Associated with Cognitive Training

A Default Mode of Brain Function

The Dynamic Brain: From Spiking Neurons to Neural Masses and Cortical Fields

Mapping the Structural Core of Human Cerebral Cortex

Six Views of Embodied Cognition

Wandering Minds: The Default Network and Stimulus-Independent Thought

What Is the Function of the Claustrum?

Whither Vagal Tone


Systems Theory

Cognitive Time Scales in a Necker-Zeno Model for Bistable Perception

Contextual Emergence from Physics to Cognitive Neuroscience



Are There Neural Correlates of Consciousness?

Biology of Consciousness

Consciousness and Anesthesia

A Framework for Consciousness

In the Theatre of Consciousness: Global Workspace Theory, a Rigorous Scientific Theory of Consciousness

Integrated Information in Discrete Dynamical Systems: Motivation and Theoretical Framework

Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness

Neurophenomenology and Contemplative Experience

Paying Attention to Consciousness

Primates, Monks and the Mind

The Unbearable Automaticity of Being


Mindfulness and Meditation

A Cartography of the Ecstatic and Meditative States

Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation

Attentional Modulation of Primary Interoceptive and Exteroceptive Cortices

Attention Regulation and Monitoring in Meditation

The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Well-Being

The Dynamics of Theravāda Insight Meditation – Insight Analayo

Effect of Compassion Meditation on Neuroendocrine, Innate Immune and Behavioral Responses to Psychosocial Stress

How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action from a Conceptual and Neural Perspective

Long-Term Meditators Self-Induce High-Amplitude Gamma Synchrony During Mental Practice

Mechanisms of Mindfulness

Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness

Meditation Experience Is Associated with Differences in Default Mode Network Activity and Connectivity

Mental Training Affects Distribution of Limited Brain Resources

Mindfulness: A Proposed Operational Definition

Mindfulness Training Alters Emotional Memory Recall Compared to Active Controls: Support for an Emotional Information Processing Model of Mindfulness

Mindfulness Training as A Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review

Mindfulness Training Modifies Subsystems of Attention

Neurophenomenology and Contemplative Experience

Psychobiology of Altered States of Consciousness

Psychobiology of Mindfulness

Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise

Short-Term Meditation Training Improves Attention and Self-Regulation

The Sister of Mindfulness

Studies of Advanced Stages of Meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist and Vedic Traditions: A Comparison of General Changes

Studying the Well-Trained Mind

Thinking About Not Thinking: Neural Correlates of Conceptual Processing During Zen Meditation

The Unique Brain Anatomy of Meditation Practitioners: Alterations in Cortical Gyrification
Zazen and Cardiac Variability



A Neurobiologically Informed Perspective on Psychotherapy

A New Intellectual Framework for Psychiatry



Homocysteine-Lowering by B Vitamins Slows the Rate of Accelerated Brain Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial


Positive Psychology

Adaptive Mental Mechanisms – Their Role in A Positive Psychology

A Functional Genomic Perspective on Human Well-Being

The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?

Beyond the Hedonic Treadmill – Revising the Adaptation Theory of Well-Being

Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being In Daily Life

Cultivating Positive Emotions to Optimize Health and Well-Being

Does Positive Affect Influence Health?

Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction By Building Resilience

Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity

Healthy Happiness: Effects of Happiness on Physical Health and the Consequences for Preventive Health Care

Is Gratitude A Moral Affect?

Maximizing Versus Satisficing: Happiness Is a Matter of Choice

Money Giveth, Money Taketh Away: The Dual Effect of Wealth on Happiness

The Neural Bases of Key Competencies of Emotional Intelligence

On Happiness and Human Potentials: A Review of Research on Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being

Physiological Effects of Free Singing. Pilot Study on a Novel Approach of Singing Therapy

Positive Emotion Dispositions Differentially Associated with Big Five Personality and Attachment Style

Positive Emotion Persistence

Positive Psychology Progress Empirical Validation of Interventions

Psychological Resources, Positive Illusions, and Health

Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change

Resting Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia Is Associated with Tonic Positive Emotionality

Satisfaction with Life Scale

Subjective Well-Being: Three Decades of Progress

Well-Being Building Bridges Between Buddhism and Western Psychology


Pain and Punishment

Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion

Placebo and Opioid Analgesia – Imaging A Shared Neuronal Network


Pleasure and Reward

Affective Neuroscience of Pleasure: Reward in Humans and Animals

Amygdalar and Prefrontal Pathways to the Lateral Hypothalamus Are Activated by a Learned Cue That Stimulates Eating

Baby Schema Modulates The Brain Reward System In Nulliparous Women

Cocaine Cues And Dopamine In Dorsal Striatum: Mechanism of Craving In Cocaine Addiction

Decision Utility, the Brain, and Pursuit of Hedonic Goals

Dissecting Components of Reward: ‘Liking’, ‘Wanting’, and Learning

Duality of Salience in Dopamine Neurons

Dynamic Computation of Incentive Salience: “Wanting” What Was Never “Liked”

Hedonic Hot Spot in Nucleus Accumbens Shell: Where Do Mu-Opioids Cause Increased Hedonic Impact of Sweetness?

Hedonic Hot Spots in the Brain

Liking’ and ‘Wanting’ Food Rewards: Brain Substrates and Roles in Eating Disorders

Motivational Salience: Amygdala Tuning from Traits, Needs, Values, and Goals

The Neurobiology of Pleasure, Reward Processes, Addiction and Their Health Implications

The Neuroscience of Pleasure. Focus on “Ventral Pallidum Firing Codes Hedonic Reward: When a Bad Taste Turns Good”

Pleasures of the Brain

The Tempted Brain Eats: Pleasure and Desire Circuits in Obesity and Eating Disorders

Towards a Functional Neuroanatomy of Pleasure and Happiness

Which Cue to “Want?” Central Amygdala Opioid Activation Enhances and Focuses Incentive Salience on a Prepotent Reward Cue


Negativity Bias

Bad Is Stronger Than Good

Negative Information Weighs More Heavily on the Brain: The Negativity Bias in Evaluative Categorizations

Negativity Bias, Negativity Dominance, and Contagion



Anatomy In Emotion: A Meta-Analysis of Findings from Neuroimaging

Disruption of Right Prefrontal Cortex by Low-Frequency Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Induces Risk-Taking Behavior

Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion

Embodying Emotion

Emotional and Physical Health

Emotion-Induced Changes in Human Medial Prefrontal Cortex: During Anticipatory Anxiety

The Eureka Hunt: Why Do Good Ideas Come to Us When They Do?

Integration of Emotion and Cognition in the Lateral Prefrontal Cortex

Neuroimaging Support for Discrete Neural Correlates of Basic Emotions: A Voxel-Based Meta-Analysis

Resilient Individuals use Positive Emotions to Bounce Back from Negative Emotional Experiences

When Your Gain Is My Pain and Your Pain Is My Gain: Neural Correlates of Envy and Schadenfreude

Valence, Gender, and Lateralization of Functional Brain



Integration of Emotion and Cognition in the Lateral Prefrontal Cortex

Prefrontal Cortex and Flexible Cognitive Control: Rules Without Symbols

Telling More Than We Can Know: Verbal Reports on Mental Processes



Decision Making, the P3, and the Locus Coeruleus-Norepinephrine System

Dissociable Intrinsic Connectivity Networks for Salience Processing and Executive Control

The Neural Basis of Economic Decision-Making in the Ultimatum Game


Resilience and Coping

A Hot/Cool-System Analysis of Delay of Gratification: Dynamics of Willpower

Antecedent-And Response-Focused Emotion Regulation: Divergent Consequences for Experience, Expression, and Physiology

Emotion Regulation in Everyday Life

Emotion-Related Self-Regulation and Its Relation to Children’s Maladjustment

Having a Word With Yourself: Neural Correlates of Self-Criticism and Self-Reassurance

Loss, Trauma, and Human Resilience

Neural Correlates of Evaluation Associated with Promotion and Prevention Regulatory Focus

Protective and Damaging Effects of Stress Mediators: Central Role of the Brain

Risk and Reward Are Processed Differently in Decisions Made Under Stress

Self-Control and Aggression

Societal vs. Individual Risk of Death in the United Kingdom

Stress Reduction Correlates with Structural Changes in the Amygdala


Memory and Learning

Internally Generated Reactivation of Single Neurons in Human Hippocampus During Free Recall

The Labile Nature of Consolidation Theory

Mechanisms for Selection of Basic Motor Programs – Roles for the Striatum and Pallidum

Memory Traces Unbound



The Gender Similarities Hypothesis



Is Communication A Skill? Communication Behaviors and Being in Relationships



Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees

Biology, Politics, and the Emerging Science of Human Nature

The Cognitive Niche: Coevolution of Intelligence, Sociality, and Language

Cooperative Behavior Cascades in Human Social Networks

Cortical Mechanisms of Human Imitation

Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion

Dopamine and Oxytocin Interactions Underlying Behaviors: Potential Contributions to Behavioral Disorders

Do You Feel My Pain? Racial Group Membership Modulates Empathic Neural Responses

Effects of Intranasal Oxytocin on ‘Compassion Focused Imagery

Emotions Promote Social Interaction by Synchronizing Brain Activity Across Individuals

Empathy and Consciousness

Empathy: Its Ultimate and Proximate Bases

Genes and Social Behavior

Group Competition, Reproductive Leveling, and the Evolution of Human Altruism

Loving-Kindness and Compassion Meditation: Potential for Psychological Interventions

Neural Correlates of Trust

Neural Responses to Taxation and Voluntary Giving Reveal Motives for Charitable Donations

A Nonsimultaneous, Extended, Altruistic-Donor Chain

Nonverbal Behavior and the Vertical Dimension of Social Relations: A Meta-Analysis

Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources

Orienting in a Defensive World: Mammalian Modifications of Our Evolutionary Heritage. a Polyvagal Theory

Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and the Neurogenetics of Sociality

Oxytocin and the Neural Mechanisms Regulating Social Cognition and Affiliative Behavior

The Polyvagal Theory: Phylogenetic Substrates of a Social Nervous System

The Power of Mindful Empathy to Heal Toxic Shame

Relationships as Regulators: A Psychobiologic Perspective on Bereavement

Self-Compassion: Conceptualizations, Correlates, & Interventions

The Selfish Nature of Generosity: Harassment and Food Sharing in Primates

Sex-Linked Neuroanatomical Basis of Human Altruistic Cooperativeness

Social Groups That Elicit Disgust Are Differentially Processed in mPFC

Social Isolation Kills, But How and Why?

Social Transmission of Face Preferences Among Humans

Speaker–Listener Neural Coupling Underlies Successful Communication

Viewing Pictures of a Romantic Partner Reduces Experimental Pain: Involvement of Neural Reward Systems

Winners Don’t Punish



Is Self Special? A Critical Review of Evidence from Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

Philosophical Conceptions of the Self: Implications for Cognitive Science

What Is Self-Specific? Theoretical Investigation and Critical Review of Neuroimaging Results



An fMRI Investigation of Emotional Engagement in Moral Judgment

Neural Correlates of Human Virtue Judgment

The Neural Basis of Human Social Values: Evidence from Functional MRI

Neural Responses to Taxation and Voluntary Giving Reveal Motives for Charitable Donations

Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans



Amygdala Volume in Major Depressive Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Studies

Phenylethylamine, a Possible Link to the Antidepressant Effects of Exercise?



Alcohol Attributable Burden of Incidence of Cancer in Eight European Countries Based on Results from Prospective Cohort Study

Drug Abuse: Hedonic Homeostatic Dysregulation

The Incentive Sensitization Theory of Addiction: Some Current Issues

The Neurobiology of Addiction An Overview

Neurobiology of Nicotine Addiction: Implications for Smoking Cessation Treatment

Neurobiology of Nicotine Dependence

Sedative-Hypnotic Drugs



The Origin And Evolution of Religious Prosociality



Primates, Monks and the Mind

Tool-Use Training in a Species of Rodent: The Emergence of an Optimal Motor Strategy and Functional Understanding


Non-Human Species

The Bonobo Genome Compared with the Chimpanzee and Human Genomes

Cetaceans Have Complex Brains for Complex Cognition

Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

Rick Hanson, PhD is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and New York Times best-selling author. His books have been published in 29 languages and include NeurodharmaResilient, Hardwiring HappinessBuddha’s BrainJust One Thing, and Mother Nurture – with 900,000 copies in English alone. His free newsletters have 215,000 subscribers and his online programs have scholarships available for those with financial need. He’s lectured at NASA, Google, Oxford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. An expert on positive neuroplasticity, his work has been featured on the BBC, CBS, NPR, and other major media. He began meditating in 1974 and is the founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. He and his wife live in northern California and have two adult children. He loves wilderness and taking a break from emails.

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