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Dr. Richard J. Davidson

Founder & Director of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Davidson is best known for his groundbreaking work studying emotion and the brain. A friend and confidante of the Dalai Lama, he is a highly sought after expert and speaker, leading conversations on well-being on international stages such as the World Economic Forum, where he served on the Global Council on Mental Health. Time Magazine named Davidson one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2006. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2017.

His research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style as well as methods to promote human flourishing, including meditation and related contemplative practices. His studies have centered on people across the lifespan, from birth through old age. In addition, he’s conducted studies with individuals with emotional disorders such as mood and anxiety disorders and autism, as well as expert meditation practitioners with tens of thousands of hours of experience. His research uses a wide range of methods including different varieties of MRI, positron emission tomography, electroencephalography and modern genetic and epigenetic methods.

Davidson has published hundreds of scientific papers, numerous chapters and reviews, and is co-author with Daniel Goleman of "Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body" (Avery, Sept. 5, 2017). He is also the author, with Sharon Begley, of The New York Times bestseller "The Emotional Life of Your Brain" (Penguin, 2012). He has been featured widely in popular media, including the Today Show, ABC’s Nightline, National Public Radio, National Geographic Magazine, Time Magazine, Newsweek, O: the Oprah Magazine, PBS’s The Charlie Rose Show, Harvard Business Review, and additional national and international news outlets.

Davidson is the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he has been a faculty member since 1984. He is the founder of Healthy Minds Innovations, Inc., an external, affiliated nonprofit dedicated to supporting the mission of the Center for Healthy Minds.

Richard Davidson meets with graduate students by David Nevala


  • Ph.D., Harvard University, Psychology, Psychopathology, Psychophysiology with minor focus in Behavioral Neurology and Neuroanatomy
  • B.S., New York University, Psychology


  • National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist
  • MERIT Award from the National Institute of Mental Health
  • Established Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD)
  • Distinguished Investigator Award from NARSAD
  • William James Fellow Award from the American Psychological Society
  • Hilldale Award from the University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, the most distinguished award for science given by the American Psychological Association
  • Mani Bhaumik Award by University of California, Los Angeles; first recipient for advancing the understanding of the brain and conscious mind in healing
  • Paul D. MacLean Award for Outstanding Neuroscience Research in Psychosomatic Medicine
  • NYU College of Arts and Science Alumni Achievement Award
  • Madison Magazine Person of the Year

Scientific Contributions and Affiliations

  • Elected Member, National Academy of Medicine
  • Founding Co-Editor, American Psychological Association journal
  • Past-President, Society for Research in Psychopathology
  • Past-President, Society for Psychophysiological Research
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Fellow, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters

Board Affiliations

  • Board President, Healthy Minds Innovations
  • Chief Scientific Adviser and Founding Steward, former Board Member, The Mind & Life Institute
  • Governing Board of UNESCO's Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP)
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness, Harvard University

View Davidson's full CV and list of scientific publications.

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