The research in the center is both basic and applied. It is targeted on understanding what is the crux of a healthy, resilient brain, and what promotes the cultivation of wellbeing, resilience, empathy and peacefulness. To answer these questions we combine fMRI, EEG, TMS, skin conductance, HR, breath measures, facial EMG with psychological tools. We integrate in our work a wide variety of disciplines and wisdoms, ranging from physics and graph-theory, occupational therapy, social and clinical psychology and education to Buddhist psychology and mind-body practices.
What makes one brain resilient to internal (e.g. anatomical changes) or external perturbations (e.g. dire life circumstances) and another vulnerable? Is a resilient brain more stable? more consistent? more flexible? How can we measure the resilience-building effects of different interventions, such as psychotherapy or mindfulness meditation? Finding a brain marker for resilience is important becuse it enables us to differentiate between stable and vulnerable brains, and to apply preventive measures to increase resilience. Inspired by a physics approach to complex systems, our research suggests that brain resilience can be quantified through behavioral and neural measures. We are currently working to further develop measures to quantify brain resilience through methods such as EEG and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in both healthy and vulnerable populations (e.g., patients with schizophrenia or ADHD).
Our ability to understand others, share experiences, and build relationships lies at the core of human existence and is crucial for healthy development and wellbeing. The research in the lab aims to uncover the biological mechanisms that form the basis of human social behavior. We examine the behavioral and physiological (fMRI, ANS, EMG) correlates of individuals in various interpersonal settings. We aim to understand the physiological and psychological conditions for optimal social performance, and how it can promote development, health, resilience and wellbeing.
Harnessing the embodiment of the brain through mindfulness and biofeedback training to promote positive brain traits
One of the great paradigm changes of the last decade is the realization how much the brain is an embodied organ. Many interventions such as mindfulness practice and biofeedback make use of this embodiment to promote healthier function. At the Sagol Center, we conduct studies aimed at assessing whether and how mind-body practices such as training in mindfulness and compassion or biofeedback can increase positive traits such as attention, emotional regulation and empathy, as well as general well-being. We study the effects of mindfulness-based programs on various populations such as school teachers and youth, as well as people with clinical symptoms (e.g., self-criticism). We are also interested how these practices can promote more peaceful societies by cultivating mind-states that can promote reconciliation in conflictual situations. In clinical populations, such as high-functioning individuals with autism, we are assessing the effects of a contemplative-biofeedback setup on stress-reduction, emotion regulation and empathy.
The role of Sensory and Motor functions in healthy development and healthy function
Disciplines such as occupational therapy and therapists working on developmental problems have long noted the role sensory and motor abnormalities play in a wide range of disorders, and the importance of addressing these abnormalities in therapies targeted at promoting more optimal behavior. In most of our studies we give attention to sensory-motor abnormalities and claim they can be indictors of vulnerable brains. Presently, we are conducting a study with individuals with autism to understand the relation between motor synchrony abilities and social abilities. We are also assessing an educational intervention aimed at increasing movement in the class.
Contemplative neuropedagogy as an educational tool
Can we use neuroscience to develop innovative pedagogical practices? And how best to implement these practices in educational settings? Contemplative neuropedagogy is a pedagogical theory developed at the Sagol Center for Brain and Mind in collaboration with education researchers from the Beit Berl college. This theory combines neuropedagogy with contemplative pegagogy. Neuropedagogy is a field of study which examines how knowledge from neuroscience can drive the development of improved pedagogical practiced. This fields brings together educators and neuroscientists in order to cultivate a common language and mutual thinking about the implementation of knowledge from neuroscience in educational settings. Contemplative pedagogy is a pedagogical theory that uses first person experiences in order to connect the student to the subject material through bodily experiences, to encourage connecting this subject matter to his/her internal and experiential world and personal values, to connect the student to the people, community and world surrounding him/her and to create a broad context for learning which is relevant to the personal experiences and the daily life of the student. We study how the use of contemplative neuropedagogy leads to the nurturing of well-being in educators and students by creating a space for observation and enhancing attention and awareness to the self, to others and to the environment, thus creating a more meaningful teaching and learning experience.
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Sharon-David, H., Mizrahi, M., Rinott, M., Golland, Y., Birnbaum, G. E. (2018). Being on the same wavelength: Behavioral synchrony between partners and its influence on the experience of intimacy. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Read the article.
Federman, A., Ergas, O. (2018). The Healing Paradox of Controlled Behavior: A Perspective from Mindfulness-Based Interventions. Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 25. Read the article.
Golland, Y., Hakim, A., Aloni, T., Schaefer, S., Levit-Binnun, N. (2018). Affect dynamics of facial EMG during continuous emotional experiences. Biological Psychology, 139. Read the article.
Brezis, R. S., Noy, L., Alony, T., Gotlieb, R., Cohen, R., Golland, Y., Levit-Binnun, N. (2017).
Brezis, R. S., Noy, L., Alony, T., Gotlieb, R., Cohen, R., Golland, Y., Levit-Binnun, N. (2017). Patterns of Joint Improvisation in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. fronties in Psychology. Read the article.
Naim-Feil, J., Rubinson, M., Freche, D., Grinshpoon, A., Peled, A., Moses, E., Levit-Binnun, N. (2017). Altered Brain Network Dynamics in Schizophrenia: A Cognitive Electroencephalography Study. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. (corrected proof). Read the article.
Golland, Y., Levit-Binnun, N., Hendler, T., Lerner, Y. (2017). Neural dynamics underlying emotional transmissions between individuals. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 1-12. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsx049. Read the article
Alkoby A., Halperin E., Tarrasch, R., Levit-Binnun, N. (2017). Increased Support for Political Compromise in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Following an 8-Week Mindfulness Workshop. Mindfulness, 1-9. doi: 10.1007/s12671-017-0710-5. Read the article.
Stern-Ellran K., Zilcha-Mano, S., Sebba, R., Levit-Binnun, N. (2016). Disruptive Effects of Colorful vs. Non-colorful Play Area on Structured Play – A Pilot Study with Preschoolers. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01661. Read the article.
Davidovitch M., Levit-Binnun, N., Golan, D., Manning-Courtney, P. (2015). Late Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Following Initial Negative Assessment by a Multidisciplinary Developmental Team: Reasons and Implications. The Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 36(4). doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000133. Read the article.
Golland Y., Arzouan Y., Levit-Binnun N. (2015). The mere co-presence: synchronisation of autonomic signals and emotional experiences across co-present, not communicating individuals. Plos One, 10(5). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125804. Read the article.
Noy L., Levit-Binnun N., Golland Y. (2015). Being in the Zone: physiological markers of togetherness during joint improvisation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00187. Read the article.
Levit-Binnun N., Golland Y. (2015). Adding Network Approaches to a Neurobiological Framework of Resilience. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, e111. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X14001617. Read the article.
Levit Binnun, N., Tarrasch, R. (2014). Relation between contemplative exercises and an enriched psychology students’ experience in a neuroscience course. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1296. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01296. Read the article.
Shahar, B., Szsepsenwol, O., Zilcha-Mano, S., Haim, N., Zamir, O., Levi-Yeshuvi, S., Levit-Binnun, N. (2014). A Wait-List Randomized Controlled Trial of Loving-Kindness Meditation Programme for Self-Criticism. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1893. Read the article.
Arzouan, Y., Moses, E., Peled, A., Levit-Binnun, N. (2014). Impaired network stability in schizophrenia revealed by TMS perturbations. Schizophrenia Research, 152(1), 322–4. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2013.11.017. Read the article.
Golland, Y., Keissar, K., Levit-Binnun, N. (2014). Studying the dynamics of autonomic activity during emotional experience. Psychophysiology, 51(11), 1101–11. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12261. Read the article.
Levit-Binnun, N., Szepsenwol, O., Stern-Ellran, K., Engel-Yeger, B. (2014). The relationship between sensory responsiveness profiles, attachment orientations, and anxiety symptoms. Australian Journal of Psychology, 66(4), 233–240. doi: 10.1111/ajpy.12064. Read the article.
Levit-Binnun, N., Davidovitch, M., Golland, Y. (2012). Sensory and motor secondary symptoms as indicators of brain vulnerability. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 5(1), 26. doi: 10.1186/1866-1955-5-26. Read the article.
Levit-Binnun, N., Golland, Y. (2011). Finding behavioral and network indicators of brain vulnerability. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 1–9. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00010. Read the article.
Levit-Binnun, N. L., Golland, Y., Davidovitch, M., Rolnick, A. (2010). The Biofeedback Odyssey: From Neal Miller to Current and Future Models of Regulation. Biofeedback, 38(4), 136–141. doi: 10.5298/1081-5937-38.4.05. Read the article.