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Dr. Richard J. Davidson

Dr. Richard J. Davidson

Founder and Chief Visionary, Healthy Minds Innovations, William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and Founder & Director of the Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Davidson received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Psychology and has been at Wisconsin since 1984.  He has published more than 440 articles, numerous chapters and reviews and edited 14 books. He is the author (with Sharon Begley) of “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” published by Penguin in 2012 and the co-author, with Daniel Goleman, of “Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body,” published by Penguin Books in 2017.

Dr. Davidson is the recipient of numerous awards for his research including the William James Fellow Award from the American Psychological Society as well as the year 2000 recipient of the most distinguished award for science given by the American Psychological Association – the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award. In 2006, Dr. Davidson was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. He has also served on the Scientific Advisory Board at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences from 2011-2019 and was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Mental Health 2014-2018.  In 2017 he was elected to the National Academy of Medicine and in 

2018 appointed to the Governing Board of UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP).

Outside of his work in publishing and advising, Dr. Davidson, a friend and confidante of the Dalai Lama, has been the innovative founder and leader of the Center for Healthy Minds with his groundbreaking work studying emotion and the brain. His research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style and methods to promote human flourishing including meditation and related contemplative practices. 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.

In 2014, Dr. Davidson, realizing that the neuroscientific research of the Center would not allow the widespread dissemination of the well-being practices proven in the lab, launched a nonprofit, Healthy Minds Innovations. Offering accessible products like the freely available Healthy Minds Program meditation app and a workplace program – Dr. Davidson has been able to leverage his years of research to take these key learnings out of the lab and into the palm of your hand. 

All of his work is in service of his greater vision, to create a kinder, wiser, more compassionate world.


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