Change Your Mind, Change the World

Center for Healthy Minds
at the Waisman Center

University of Wisconsin-Madison
1500 Highland Ave, Suite S119
Madison, WI 53705-2280
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Dr. Richard J. Davidson

Founder 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 serves on the Global Council on Mental Health. Time Magazine named Davidson one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2006.

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 and is the author, with Sharon Begley, of The New York Times bestseller "The Emotional Life of Your Brain" published by Penguin in 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 and the Director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior – both at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he has been a faculty member since 1984. Throughout his career, he has published more than 300 articles and 80 chapters/reviews as well as edited 14 books.

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

  • 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
  • Scientific Advisory Board Member, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany
  • Board Member and Fellow, The Mind & Life Institute
  • Advisory Board Member, Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute

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

Submit a speaking request or media interview with Richard Davidson.