Helen Weng, PhD

TitleAssistant Professor
InstitutionUniversity of California San Francisco
Address1545 Divisadero Street
San Francisco CA 94115
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    Collapse Biography 
    Collapse Education and Training
    Columbia University, New York, NYB.A.05/2004Neuroscience & Behavior
    University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WIPh.D.06/2014Clinical Psychology
    University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CAPostdoctoral Fellowship12/2016Integrative Medicine

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    Collapse Overview
    Helen Weng, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF and a core member of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. She is also an affiliate faculty member of the Neuroscape Center at the Sandler Neurosciences Center.

    Dr. Weng is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist, and is interested in the neurobiological mechanisms through which meditation training may improve social behavior and mental health. She is developing new ways to quantify meditation skills using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and machine learning to identify mental states of body awareness during meditation. She is also using community-engaged approaches to increase racial and ethnic diversity of meditators studied within contemplative neuroscience, in partnership with the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA. This innovative work led to an invitation to present her work to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Buddhism and Science conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (video below).

    Helen received a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Conducted at the Center for Healthy Minds and Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, her research demonstrated that compassion meditation increased both altruistic behavior towards others and how the brain responds to human suffering. This work was some of the first to suggest that compassion is a skill that may be enhanced through training, which results in both behavioral and neuroplasticity. Her research has been featured in media outlets such as the New York Times, the BBC, National Public Radio, and Fast Company.

    Dr. Weng completed a clinical psychology internship at the UW-Madison Psychiatric Institute and clinics, where she specialized in integrating compassion and mindfulness meditation with psychotherapy to treat mood and anxiety disorders. Her clinical interests include adapting mind-body interventions for the LGBTQ population. She values integrating multicultural and social justice frameworks to her work and communication.

    Guided compassion meditation from Dr. Weng’s research:

    Collapse Research 
    Collapse Research Activities and Funding
    Optimizing measurement of mindfulness meditation using brain pattern classification
    NIH/NCCIH K08AT009385Feb 1, 2017 - Jan 31, 2022
    Role: Principal Investigator
    A community-engaged approach to contemplative neuroscience in a diverse contemplative community
    Mind and Life Institute, Francisco J. Varela Award Feb 18, 2016 - Feb 17, 2018
    Role: Principal Investigator
    The EMBODY Project: Using pattern classification to decode the mental contents of meditation
    Rajen C. Jaswa Fund for Meditation Research, UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine Oct 1, 2015 - Dec 31, 2017
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Identifying neural patterns of body awareness with the Brain Body Awareness Metric: A novel brain-based method of measuring mindfulness of body sensations
    UCSF Mt. Zion Health Fund Pilot in Integrative Medicine Research P0509581Jul 1, 2015 - Dec 31, 2017
    Role: Principal Investigator

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    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Researchers can login to make corrections and additions, or contact us for help.
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    1. Weng, H.Y., Schuyler, B.S., Davidson, R.J. (2017).The impact of compassion training on the brain and prosocial behavior. In E. Seppala, E. Simon-Thomas, S. L. Brown, M. C. Worline, D. Cameron & J. Doty (Eds). Handbook of Compassion Science. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 2017; 133-146.
    2. Henje Blom E, Tymofiyeva O, Chesney MA, Ho TC, Moran P, Connolly CG, Duncan LG, Baldini L, Weng H, Acree M, Goldman V, Hecht FM, Yang TT. Feasibility and Preliminary Efficacy of a Novel RDoC-Based Treatment Program for Adolescent Depression: "Training for Awareness Resilience and Action" (TARA)-A Pilot Study. Front Psychiatry. 2016; 7:208. PMID: 28138319.
      View in: PubMed
    3. Rosenkranz MA, Esnault S, Christian BT, Crisafi G, Gresham LK, Higgins AT, Moore MN, Moore SM, Weng H, Salk RH, Busse WW, Davidson RJ. Mind-body interactions in the regulation of airway inflammation in asthma: A PET study of acute and chronic stress. Brain Behav Immun. 2016 Nov; 58:18-30. PMID: 27039241.
      View in: PubMed
    4. Ho TC, Zhang S, Sacchet MD, Weng H, Connolly CG, Henje Blom E, Han LK, Mobayed NO, Yang TT. Fusiform Gyrus Dysfunction is Associated with Perceptual Processing Efficiency to Emotional Faces in Adolescent Depression: A Model-Based Approach. Front Psychol. 2016; 7:40. PMID: 26869950; PMCID: PMC4740953.
    5. Henje Blom E, Ho TC, Connolly CG, LeWinn KZ, Sacchet MD, Tymofiyeva O, Weng H, Yang TT. The neuroscience and context of adolescent depression. Acta Paediatr. 2016 Apr; 105(4):358-65. PMID: 26663379; PMCID: PMC4779656.
    6. Weng H, Fox AS, Hessenthaler HC, Stodola DE, Davidson RJ. The Role of Compassion in Altruistic Helping and Punishment Behavior. PLoS One. 2015; 10(12):e0143794. PMID: 26655837; PMCID: PMC4675554.
    7. Weng H, Fox AS, Shackman AJ, Stodola DE, Caldwell JZ, Olson MC, Rogers GM, Davidson RJ. Compassion training alters altruism and neural responses to suffering. Psychol Sci. 2013 Jul 01; 24(7):1171-80. PMID: 23696200; PMCID: PMC3713090.
    8. Schuyler BS, Kral TR, Jacquart J, Burghy CA, Weng H, Perlman DM, Bachhuber DR, Rosenkranz MA, Maccoon DG, van Reekum CM, Lutz A, Davidson RJ. Temporal dynamics of emotional responding: amygdala recovery predicts emotional traits. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Feb; 9(2):176-81. PMID: 23160815; PMCID: PMC3907933.
    9. MacCoon DG, Imel ZE, Rosenkranz MA, Sheftel JG, Weng H, Sullivan JC, Bonus KA, Stoney CM, Salomons TV, Davidson RJ, Lutz A. The validation of an active control intervention for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Behav Res Ther. 2012 Jan; 50(1):3-12. PMID: 22137364; PMCID: PMC3257026.
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