Gaëlle Desbordes, PhD
Current work: Meditation neuroscience
I am currently working on two studies to investigate
meditation from a neuroscientific perspective, using
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and
simultaneous recordings of autonomic markers (cardiac,
respiratory, and electrodermal).
The first study is part of a multisite investigation of
meditation and mind-body health
and Attention Longitudinal Meditation (CALM) study, in
Raison at University of
Pace at Emory University, Eric
Schwartz at Boston University, and other collaborators at
the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)-Harvard-MIT
Center for Biomedical Imaging in Boston.
The first results from this study are now published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (Full article available here). I recently presented these and other new results at several conferences, including the International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health (where our poster won a Prize for an Outstanding Poster Presentation) and the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) Annual Meeting [Abstract and E-Poster].
The second study is an exploration of the neural and
physiological correlates of more advanced forms of
meditation practice which may enable top-down regulation
of homeostasis mechanisms classically considered to be
beyond voluntary control.
These two projects are funded by the NIH
(NCCAM) with grants
R01AT004698, R01AT004698-01A1S1 (P.I. Raison), and ARRA
RC1AT005728 (P.I. Schwartz), and by a Varela Award from
the Mind and Life
- About the CALM
Raison (2-min video)
- About compassion meditation: Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi (4-min video), Matthieu Ricard (10-min video), Chuck Raison (3-min video).
- Upcoming CCARE Science of Compassion Summer Research Institute - Origins, Measures and Interventions, Jul 16-21, 2013, Telluride, CO, organized by the Center for
Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE).
- 2010 Conference on Compassion Meditation: Mapping
current Research and Charting Future Directions (Oct 2010,
Atlanta, GA); with the Dalai Lama, Matthieu Ricard, Geshe
Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Chuck Raison, Richie Davidson, and
other scientists and scholars. Full
- More on meditation research: International Symposia for Contemplative Studies, Apr 2012, Denver, CO (videos of the main talks are available), and other resources at the Mind and Life Institute.
| I also recently started collaborating with
on the neural (fMRI) correlates of itch
and its treatment with acupuncture.
Previous postdoctoral work: Population coding in the early visual system
I was previously a postdoctoral fellow
Stanley's group, at Harvard University and then at
Georgia Tech (in Atlanta). My work was on neuronal
population coding in the early visual pathway. I was
investigating the neural code in the Lateral Geniculate
Nucleus (LGN) at the scale of small populations of
neurons (n = 10-12 neurons).
Neurons convey information about the world in
the form of trains of action potentials (spikes). These
trains are highly repeatable when the same stimulus is
presented multiple times, and this temporal precision
across repetitions can be as fine as a few
milliseconds. It is usually assumed that this time scale
also corresponds to the timing precision of several
neighboring neurons firing in concert. However, the
relative timing of spikes emitted by different neurons
in a local population is not necessarily as fine as the
temporal precision across repetitions within a single
I showed that the temporal scale of the
population code entering visual cortex is on the order
of 10 ms and is largely insensitive to changes in visual
contrast. Since closely timed spikes are more efficient
in inducing a spike in downstream cortical neurons, and
since fine temporal precision is necessary in
representing the more slowly varying natural
environment, preserving relative spike timing at a
~10-ms resolution may be a crucial property of the
neural code entering cortex
et al., 2008).
I then found that fine spike timing
precision—within single cells as well as across
nearby neurons in the local LGN population—was
continually modulated as the visual stimulus unfolds,
and that this modulation could be captured by a
generalized linear model (GLM) that combines
stimulus-driven elements with spike-history dependence
associated with intrinsic cellular dynamics
et al., 2010).
Last update: Feb 8, 2013