Secondary Topic: Mind-body (including meditation and yoga)
Neuroscience of Compassion: Multi-dimensional Construct and Integrative Health Skill
Poppy Schoenberg, PhD, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Nashville, TN, United States; Jonathan Greenberg, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital , Boston, MA, United States; Yi-Yuan Tang, PhD, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, United States; David Vago, PhD, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Nashville, TN, United States
Late Breaker: No
The construct of compassion is multi-faceted. It is broadly defined as the feeling that arises in witnessing another’s suffering, alongside the subsequent intention/motivation to help. Extant emotion research often conflates the construct with emotional processes such as empathy, sympathy, distress, sadness, self-compassion, and even love. Within social psychology, compassion is often framed as a virtuous characteristic and determinant to prosocial altruistic behavior that transcends self-referential processes. As such, moral psychology proposes compassion as foundational to ethical judgment and behavior. Here, we examine the concept of compassion as an empirical, multi-faceted construct through the lens of neuroscience. Specifically, what are the distinct neurobiological substrates of compassion and its analogues, and can it thus be considered as a “skill”, or group of skills, that may be developed? Can the multi-faceted construct of compassion involve multiple neurobiological markers and be intentionally modulated? What implications would this have for clinical, research, and educational settings, towards the advancement and optimization of integrative medicine and health? From an integrative health perspective, clarifying the conceptual and neurobiological processes subserving compassion will facilitate consistent empirically-informed clinical care, in addition to being good medicine.
Compassion presents a central tenet of integrative health and healing. Albeit, as a multi-faceted construct, understanding and advancing awareness of this operationalization and set of associated practices has important implications for the integrative health field. This topic is relevant for the following reasons: 1) from a clinical practice perspective, ensuring interventions appropriately emphasize compassion-based care is pertinent for the successful delivery of integrative health, ensuring patients are served in the most optimal method for their complex clinical needs. Essentially, incorporating a framework wherein compassion is described and embodied as a set of “skills” that can be harnessed within integrative medical training; 2) disseminating the extant research base regarding compassion as a multi-faceted construct with associated set of practices that cultivate it, may contribute to advanced clinician awareness and development of compassion research, particularly as a tool for working with ‘difficult’ clinical cases, and personal experiences of “burn-out”; 3) specific to the 2018 IM congress theme, ensuring the field remains collaborative, consistent, and that high-level decisions regarding clinical practice, education, and research emphasize compassion-based care, and a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of compassion at the individual biological and collective socio-psychological levels.
The session will be 90-min total. Each speaker will be allocated 20-min [15-min presentation, 5-min questions]. Following all three speakers, the session will open up for a 10-min general question round, for audience-speaker participation and discussion/debate.