Lazar Lab for Meditation Research: Sara Lazar, PhD

The Lazar Lab for Meditation Research at Massachusetts General Hospital studies the impact of yoga and meditation on cognitive and behavioral functions using scientifically validated brain imaging technologies.

Overview

The Lazar Lab for Meditation Research at Massachusetts General Hospital studies the impact of yoga and meditation on cognitive and behavioral functions using scientifically validated brain imaging technologies.

Our results provide compelling evidence that meditation can produce experience-based structural alterations in the brain. We also found indications that meditation may slow down the age-related atrophy of certain areas of the brain.

Meet our Team

Sara Lazar, PhD
Associate Researcher in Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital
Assistant Professor in Psychology, Harvard Medical School

The focus of Dr. Lazar’s research is to elucidate the neural mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of yoga and meditation, both in clinical settings and in healthy individuals. She has been practicing yoga and mindfulness meditation since 1994. Her research has been covered by numerous news outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, CNN, and WebMD, and her work has been featured in a display at the Boston Museum of Science.


Tanya Datta
Clinical Research Coordinator


Tanya graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 where she received her Bachelor’s degree in the Biological Basis of Behavior (Behavioral Neuroscience) with a minor in Japanese. She is currently co-lead on the Brain Training study for older adults. Tanya plans on attending medical school in the future and hopes to bring mindfulness into the care of patients and patient-providers alike.


Jonathan Greenberg, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Dr. Greenberg’s work focuses primarily on cognitive and neural effects of mindfulness practice. Jonathan is particularly interested in the mechanisms underlying the efficacy of mindfulness practice in treating and preventing depression, enhancing cognitive functioning, improving emotion regulation, and promoting well-being. Jonathan's background is in clinical psychology and treating individuals dealing with mood and anxiety related conditions. He has been personally involved in mindfulness practice since 2003 and has since integrated his interest in mindfulness into his clinical and academic work. 


Robert Kaufman
Clinical Research Coordinator

Rob is the co-lead on a brain training study for older adults. He graduated from Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychology with Research Distinction. He plans on attending graduate school in the future to continue his neuroscience research career.


Gunes Sevinc, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow,
Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Dr. Sevinc’s PhD dissertation focused on neural networks associated with moral cognition, especially those involved in the detection of morally relevant stimuli. Her current research interests include the relationship between mindfulness meditation and moral cognition. She is specifically interested in the structural and functional changes associated with mindfulness practice as they relate to moral behavior and prosociality. Currently, she is utilizing multivariate neuroimaging analysis methods to investigate the effects of mindfulness practice in improving cognition.

Research Projects

Successful cognitive aging

This project is a large study of the impact of meditation training on cognition and brain structure in healthy older adults. The study will address the questions: Can older adults still experience the changes in brain structure following meditation training that were found in younger subjects? Can meditation slow the normal decline in cognition that happens as we grow older?


Comparison of different types of practice

This project in collaboration with the Benson Henry Mind Body Medical Institute is comparing changes in brain structure and function following randomization to yoga, the Relaxation Response, or a control program. Changes in neural structure and function will be compared to changes in stress biomarkers.

Publications

2017

Afonso RF, Balardin JB, Lazar SW, Sato JR, Igarashi N, Santaella DF, Lacerda SS, Amaro E, Kozasa EH.  Greater cortical thickness in elderly female yoga practitioners – a cross-sectional study. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience  9,201, 2017


Van Dam N,  van Vugt M, Vago D,  Schmalzl L,  Saron C, Olendzki A, Meissner T, Lazar S, Kerr C, Gorchov J, Fox K, Field B, Britton W, Brefczynski-Lewis, J, Meyer D. Mind the hype: A critical evaluation and prescriptive agenda for scientific research on mindfulness and meditation. Perspectives on Psychological Science


2016

Greenberg J, Shapiro BG, Mischoulon D, et al. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depressed individuals improves suppression of irrelevant mental-sets. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience [Internet]. 2016 :1-6. Publisher's Version |Abstract


de Jong M, Lazar S, Hug K, Mehling WE, Hölzel BK, Sack AT, Peeters F, Ashih H, Mischoulon D, Gard T. Effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on body awareness in patients with chronic pain and comorbid depression. Frontiers in Psychology. 2016;7 :967. | Abstract


Hölzel BK, Brunsch V, Gard T, Greve DN, Koch K, Sorg C, Lazar SW, Milad MR. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, fear conditioning, and the uncinate fasciculus: A pilot study. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience [Internet]. 2016;10 :124. Publisher's Version | Abstract


2015

Good DJ, Lyddy CJ, Glomb TM, Bono JE, Brown KW, Duffy MK, Baer RA, Brewer JA, Lazar SW. Contemplating mindfulness at work an integrative review. Journal of Management [Internet]. 2015 :0149206315617003. Publisher's Version | Abstract


Gard T, Taquet M, Dixit R, Hölzel BK, Dickerson BC, Lazar SW. Greater widespread functional connectivity of the caudate in older adults who practice kripalu yoga and vipassana meditation than in controls. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience [Internet]. 2015;9 (137). Publisher's Version | Abstract


 

Desbordes G, Gard T, Hoge EA, Hölzel BK, Kerr C, Lazar SW, Olendzki A, Vago DR. Moving beyond mindfulness: defining equanimity as an outcome measure in meditation and contemplative research. Mindfulness [Internet]. 2015;6 (2) :356-372. Publisher's Version | Abstract


2014

Singleton O, Hölzel BK, Vangel M, Brach N, Carmody J, Lazar SW. Change in brainstem gray matter concentration following a mindfulness-based intervention is correlated with improvement in psychological well-being. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience [Internet]. 2014;8. Publisher's Version


Gard T, Taquet M, Dixit R, Hoelzel BK, De_montjoye Y, Brach N, Salat D, Dickerson BC, Gray JR, Lazar SW. Fluid intelligence and brain functional organization in aging yoga and meditation practitioners. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience [Internet]. 2014;6 :76. Publisher's Version |Abstract


Deckersbach T, Hölzel B, Eisner L, Lazar SW, Nierenberg AA. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Bipolar Disorder.; 2014. Publisher's Version


Gard T, Hölzel BK, Lazar SW. The potential effects of meditation on age‐related cognitive decline: a systematic review. Annals of the New York Academy of Science [Internet]. 2014;1307 (1) :89-103. Publisher's Version|Abstract

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