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Compassion Meditation: How It Changes The Brain and Improves Stress Resilience

Monday, December 4, 2017 - 18:30 to 20:30
All day: 

Compassion meditation: How it changes the brain and improves stress resilience

with Gaelle Desbordes, PhD



Smith Campus Center (Bock Room), Harvard University

75 Mt Auburn Street

6th floor

Cambridge, MA 02138


What is compassion? Can we become better at it? Emerging scientific research suggests that compassion is a skill which can be trained through contemplative practices such as compassion meditation. This presentation will provide an overview of the current state of compassion research, including recent studies suggesting that compassion training may yield to changes in the brain and to improved stress resilience. Challenges associated with measuring compassion will also be discussed.

At the end of this event, participants will be able to:

1. understand how compassion is investigated in the laboratory

2. describe compassion meditation training

3. discuss recent scientific findings on compassion meditation

Gaëlle Desbordes, Ph.D., is on the research faculty at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)-Harvard-MIT Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging. There she investigates different types of meditation practices (e.g. mindful attention, compassion) from a neuroscientific perspective. Her main ongoing study is a clinical trial of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for major depression. As a member of the Mindfulness Research Collaborative, she is also part of a research program to study the impact of mindfulness training on self-regulation and adherence to medical regimen. Her work with David DeSteno and Paul Condon to investigate how meditation training increases compassion was published in the journal Psychological Science and has been featured in the New York Times and on WBUR.

Continuing Education:

Continuing Education (CE) credits available for psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and nurses. Please see details at


Suggested donation for general attendance is $15. CE credits are available for a fee of $30. Please click the Green 'Tickets' button to register.


The Smith Campus Center (formerly Holyoke Center) is a large building occupying the block bounded by Massachusetts Avenue, Dunster Street, Holyoke Street, and Mount Auburn Street. The center's street address is 75 Mt. Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. The lecture will be held in the Bock Room, which is on the 6th floor of the center. 

Please note that The Smith Campus Center is currently under construction. Use the entrance on Dunster Street (across from Mike’s Pastry) to access the building. You will need to sign in with an ID at the security desk. We will alert them to the event. Take the elevator to the 6th floor. The Bock Room is down the hall on the right.

Click here for general directions to Harvard University. If using public transit, take the Red Line to the Harvard stop; or take any number of buses that come to Harvard Square.

Parking is limited around Harvard Square. There are metered parking spaces available around the square, though they are usually quite full. Click here for listings of parking garages in Harvard Square.

Online live-streaming

This will be available via the IMP Facebook page.

Mindfulness and Compassion Lecture Series

This program is part of the Mindfulness and Compassion Lecture Series, offered through collaboration by the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, Cambridge Health Alliance Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, and the David S Rosenthal Center for Wellness and Health Promotion, Harvard University Health Services. In this monthly series, gather with friends and colleagues in an informal setting to explore the intersection of mindfulness, compassion, and clinical practice. The presenters are notable leaders and speakers in the field who bring with them a wide variety of research and clinical experience. Each presentation will be followed by Q&A and discussion. Everyone is invited to attend.